Ireland should abandon plans to build more wind farms in order to comply with a European Union policy which has failed – especially in light of the fact that the State already has more power generation capacity than it needs, a leading economist has urged.
Colm McCarthy said Ireland seemed intent on “being the best pupil in the European Union class” when it comes to using renewable energy, despite the fact that this policy has failed and is about to be abandoned.
“It seems to me to be contrary to the national interest to incur substantial economic costs in complying with an EU policy which has failed and which, I think, is in the process of being abandoned,” he said.
“There’s been a big cut now in the renewable energy subsidies in Spain, in Germany, and there’s a big second cut coming in the UK, and it’s quite possible that we will end up in dutiful compliance at enormous cost with a policy everybody else [had] realised simply hasn’t worked.”
Speaking in Cork at the Dublin Economics Workshop’s 37th annual economic policy conference, Mr McCarthy said the Government seemed committed to pursuing wind energy generation here despite a reduction in energy demand.
In a paper entitled Time to Take a Tilt at Windmills, Mr McCarthy argued that, while it made perfect sense to have a certain amount of wind power on a modern power system, particularly if the plants are in the right place, Ireland had already achieved what was necessary from wind generation.
He pointed out that, while it may appear that long-term electricity demand was simple to project, this was not the case, particularly in the case of macro-economic instability and he instanced the Irish experience over the past six years.
Irish electricity consumption peaked in 2008 when it hit 5,000 megawatts and Eirgrid has predicted that this demand level will not be reached again until 2019 at the earliest. Yet Ireland has continued to expand it generation capacity to almost twice this level.
There is currently around 2,400 megawatts of wind generated electricity feeding into the Irish system, of which half has been built since the downturn.