A confidential memo from the wind industry’s main lobby group has described a proposed new planning order from the outgoing Government as posing a “significant impact” on the windfarm sector.
In the memo, seen by RTE’s This Week, the Irish Wind Energy Association said it was seeking a direct engagement with Government on the proposed Statutory Instrument, which would require all windfarms to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIS) of their electricity grid connection as part of their application for planning permission, which would mark a major departure from existing practice.
The proposal, from Minister of State for planning Paudie Coffey, follows on from a High Court judgment in 2014 called the ‘O’Grianna Judgment’ which said all aspects of a windfarm should be subject to an EIS, and that so-called project splitting should not be allowed.
Brian Keville, partner with Galway-based McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan environmental consultants, said that Minister Coffey’s proposed statutory instrument was a cause of confusion for existing and planned wind projects cumulatively worth hundreds of millions of euro.
He said: “It creates huge difficulty and huge uncertainty for projects that have either already commenced or secured funding and perhaps not commenced yet; those that might have ordered wind turbines, and contracted with ESB networks or Eirgrid… really it’s akin to somebody having started to construct an extension to their house which would have been considered to be exempted development, be half-way through the build and then the law changes overnight and prevents them finishing what they started.”
Mr Keville said there were issues with the way the Statutory Instrument was worded that meant it may have unintended consequences for once-off housing projects and other types of development.
A spokesman for Minister Coffey said that the Minister had met with his officials last Thursday and had referred the statutory instrument back for consideration on any possible unintended consequences of the wording.
Henry Fingleton, chairman of the anti-windfarm group Protect Rural Ireland, told RTE’s This Week that if Minister Coffey does sign the Statutory Instrument into effect before the election on 26 February, then it could deliver an electoral dividend to Fine Gael.
Labour Senator John Whelan, who is a long-time opponent of large scale wind farms, said the government should not concede to the IWEA’s attempts to lobby on the proposed SI.
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