Plans to build thousands of massive wind farms across the Midlands have come under fire over revelations that the Government’s chief green energy adviser is involved in a company that stands to make millions from the project.
Academics and opposition politicians are accusing Brendan Halligan, the former Labour Party general secretary, of a clear conflict of interest in his role as chairman of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
The authority plays a pivotal part in shaping Government policy on renewable energy and is privy to sensitive information.
Yet five months after his appointment to head up the SEAI in Octoer 2007 Mr Halligan was appointed as a director of Mainstream Renewable Energy Ltd, one of the two companies planning to erect thousands of turbines across the Midlands in a €1bn project to export wind energy. He then invested just over €500,000 in buying shares in the company, in August 2008.
Energy economics expert Professor Richard Tol said: ‘It’s obvious he has a personal interest in pushing wind rather than any other renewable.’
And Sinn Féin energy spokesman Michael Colreavy said: ‘There has to be a potential conflict of interest here. That’s very, very clear.’ There are groups opposed to plans to build thousands of turbines, as tall as 180m, beside their homes.
Andrew Duncan, of one such group, Lakeland wind farm information, said: ‘We are the pawns in a very large game.’ And a Co. Wexford couple, Philip and Catherine Hickey, who live less than 400m from a turbine said: ‘The noise is just incredible. It will penetrate doors, walls and any double-glazing you have.’
Mr Halligan and Mainstream failed to answer questions about potential conflicts of interest, while the SEAI said it ‘acts in accordance with prevailing best practice in the governance of state bodies’.
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