So the British Government has pulled the plug on developer-led plans to erect thousands of industrial wind turbines across the midlands.
However, we won’t be celebrating just yet as we must now have absolute clarity as to the import and implications of this decision.
It has always been my view that these far-fetched proposals for ‘phantom’ wind farms would eventually end up like our ghost estates, as they are entirely unsustainable from an economic, environmental and social basis.
This dramatic U-turn in UK energy strategy has profound implications for our own flawed energy policy. It is now more vital than ever that our entire energy policy is revisited. It requires a root-and-branch review as it is now irreparably undermined.
The move towards shale gas and nuclear power in the UK, US and EU, combined with the imminent removal by the EU Commission of binding renewable targets, is a game-changer and must be heeded by Government.
When it comes to energy policy and prices, we are not an island and cannot operate in isolation.
The giant wind farms proposed for the midlands have had devastating and deeply divisive consequences for dozens of rural communities. They have also served to damage the reputation of the renewal-energy sector and compromised constructive and viable projects.
These latest developments also have significant and far-reaching consequences for policies and investment plans being pursued by State bodies such as EirGrid, Bord na Mona, Coillte and SEAI, and this too now must be addressed by Government.
The wind-export project was always a dubious proposal, and there should be no comfort for it on Kildare Street.
While families have been unnecessarily tormented and communities torn apart, hundreds of farmers who were advised to sign lease contracts for turbines have been left high and dry.
The collapse of the inter-governmental agreement also raises serious question marks over the planned €4bn EirGrid expansion of the grid.
Communities have also been led on a wild goose chase by speculation about the wind farms project, which has now apparently been “shelved” but not before it caused uproar across rural Ireland.
As recently as February 19, Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte replied to me in the Senate: “The question of a wind-export project to Britain is an entirely standalone one that will fall or rise, dependent on the conclusion of an intergovernmental agreement between the two countries.”
Now that the UK has decided not to get hitched to our energy plans, it appears that we have been jilted and left standing at the altar with one massive hangover.
At maximum demand, the Irish requirement for energy is 5,000 MW at peak, whereas the proposals in the mix at present are for 30,000 MW from wind alone. This is an outrageous proposal and entirely unsustainable.
An early statement from the minister to this effect and clarity as to the implications of the collapse of the inter-governmental agreement are now required.
Senator John Whelan is the Labour Party’s Seanad spokesperson on Energy and Natural Resources
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