March 24, 2022
Government choices leave Ireland with highest European prices for renewable energy – Senator Lynn Boylan

Senator Lynn Boylan today challenged Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Ossian Smyth, on the high costs of renewable energy in Ireland. 

Referring to the spiralling cost of energy here and that renewables are cheaper than oil, Senator Boylan pointed out that never has the economic argument for transition been stronger.

Addressing the Minister of State, who was present in the Seanad, directly, she asked:

“Why, when we hear so much about our excellent wind energy resources, are our prices so high? In 2020, we had our first auction where wind energy cleared at €74 per megawatt-hour (MWh).

“This was the highest in Europe in 2020 and in 2021. No one else was in the 70s and you will see prices in the 50s and, in Spain, even in the 20s.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. IWEA (Irish Wind Energy Association) told the Climate Action Committee that they could produce electricity from Irish wind at half the current price. All that is in the way is government policy. 

“It is the choices the government has made that have given us the highest prices and it will be the choices the government makes which will decide whether Irish consumers are paying the lowest, or the highest, possible prices for renewable electricity.

“The Climate Action Committee was informed this week that the costs and risks associated with navigating the system are excessive, and that grid connection costs are way above EU average. This is having a particularly negative impact on community led onshore wind projects.

“The government needs to establish a cross-government group to identify the policy areas where costs could be reduced so that households can avail of lower energy costs. Policy areas like resourcing of the planning system, commercial rates and investment in grid infrastructure.  

“Currently commercial rates for wind farms have risen 200 to 300 per cent in the last couple of years, while commercial rates for fossil fuels have not. An under-resourced planning system has led to planning delays. 

“The failure to strengthen the grid since 2000 means substantial amounts of power are lost because the transmission system cannot cope with the volumes of renewable electricity available. 

“As more wind and solar farms are built larger amounts of power could be lost. A stronger electricity grid could cut costs by 18 per cent, all of this is being factored into bid prices. What is the minister doing about those issues?

“Guaranteeing low prices is essential to a transition that is just – people need to be materially benefiting from the transition to renewables. Households have long been forced to make the impossible choice between heating and eating. 

“Failing to create a framework within which renewable electricity can lower the cost of energy will have massive social consequences.

“The high cost of energy is one of the main reasons for energy poverty. And research from the Society for Saint Vincent de Paul shows that even a household that gets a retrofit to a B2 energy rating is not guaranteed to be free from energy poverty. It’s simply not enough to put all your eggs in the retrofitting basket.

“The cost of energy has been absent from the debate for too long. It’s time the minister now took it seriously.”

Minister Smyth’s response to Senator Boylan was extremely disappointing, failing to answer any questions while simply outlining how the programme works in terms of the Renewable Electricity Support Schemes.

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