Cutting wind subsidies
The understanding that we must do as much as we can to reduce our dependence on imported energy and minimise carbon emissions has driven the development of alternative energy options. This acceptance has almost become one of the sacred orthodoxies of the age, unchallengeable and obvious. The most visible of these alternative energy sources, and often the most divisive, is wind energy.
Champions of wind energy see it as an ideal technology for an island on the Atlantic’s eastern seaboard and that it represents one of Ireland’s very best chances of making meaningful cuts to our carbon emissions.
Those opposed, especially those living close to wind farms, say turbines make homes uninhabitable and destroy communities without conferring any real advantage. They suggest they endure the unpleasant consequences while others enjoy the profits.
Some opposition is fuelled by the belief that wind farms dependent on subsidies seem yet another in a long line of schemes used by those with access to the substantial capital needed to build them to harvest grants from the public purse. Wind farms do seem another way to concentrate wealth rather than an opportunity to redistribute it.
The opposition to wind farms is widening and just last weekend economist Colm McCarthy suggested that we should abandon plans to build more wind farms to try to comply with failed European Union policies. Mr McCarthy suggested the EU is about to abandon its policy of supporting wind farms and that we already generate more energy than we need so it would be a waste of public money to build more. He pointed out that there has already been a significant cut in the renewable energy subsidies in Spain and in Germany, and another round of cuts is expected in Britain.
In light of this unexpected change in heart the very least we should do is quickly declare a suspension of subsidies and reappraise wind farms economically and environmentally. We simply cannot afford to be in the white elephant business. After all, we have monuments to a failed energy policy from another age all around our country – hydroelectricity schemes that make little or no meaningful contribution to national energy budgets standing like watchtowers on river systems destroyed by dams. How sad it would be, and what a waste of money it would be, if today’s wind farms became the more or less redundant hydroelectricity schemes of tomorrow.
Any assessment of energy policies must also consider the suggestion that by doing no more than changing the fuel used at Moneypoint – from coal to sustainable biomass in the form of wood pellets – we would meet obligations on our renewables and avoid the prospect of multimillion-euro fines imposed by the EU. It has been suggested that even though we would have to transport the wood pellets from the US, initially at least, carbon emissions would be cut by at least 80% compared to burning coal at Moneypoint.
The scale and importance of these issues suggest that an early and comprehensive energy review is warranted.
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