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ESB wants its government owners to axe wind and solar power support

Ireland’s state-owned power provider wants its government backers to stop supporting renewable-energy sources like wind and solar power after 5 years.

The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) said Ireland’s 40% renewable-energy target for 2020 had given the industry a “really strong kick start” – particularly for the wind sector.

But it said the country would be better off putting its support behind an emissions trading scheme to cut carbon emissions beyond the 5-year goal – rather than put in place more renewable-energy targets or subsidies.

In a submission on the government’s energy green paper, ESB forecast the Irish energy sector would need up to €55 billion pumped into it before 2030, but it added that high-cost projects like offshore wind farms made for risky long-term investments.

Making the wrong policy decisions with such capital intensive projects would lock society into decades of high costs for its energy – costs that customers have to bear,” it said.

ESB said 70% of the cost of a gas-turbine power plant came from fuel, whereas 90% of the lifetime cost of an offshore wind farm came from the initial construction.

It said the high start-up cost meant the bill would need to be repaid over the next 30-plus years, during which power prices and policies could “fluctuate dramatically”.

Nearly enough wind power already

Pre-recession forecasts for Ireland’s 2025 energy needs were now off by up to 55%, which meant that Ireland already had almost enough wind-power capacity to meet its 2020 targets, ESB said.

A recent European Commission report revealed the share of government backing that was going to fossil-fuel industries in Ireland was still among the highest in the EU – worth some €510 million in 2012.

Green-energy campaigners have blamed both a lack of political will and public opposition to wind farms for stalling progress on Ireland cutting its carbon footprint.