Monday, 9 February 2015

€20 billion committed to under Ireland's Renewable Energy Action Plan

What follows is an analysis by Pat Swords, an environmental engineer, on the costs committed by the Irish government in their Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP). The bailout of Anglo Irish Bank ended up costing the Irish people around € 29 billion, so the costs committed under NREAP, mainly for windmills and pylons, will come to at least two thirds of that of the infamous bank. The wind industry and other interested parties require vast long term subsidies to make these huge capital investments viable and the Irish people have been signed up to pay up for generations once again. At the end of this programme, when the subsidies finally come to an end, we will have no choice but to setup a NAMA for windmills, as Colm McCarthy the economist pointed out, adding more billions to the cost. 

There are also many costs to society that can't be so easily valued - for example the loss of jobs as big industry moves out. Consider this letter to the Energy Regulator from Kerry Group, for example, who are trying to fight in a very tight competitive international market with domestic policy dragging them down in a whirlpool of electricity levies, charges and subsidies while their competitors benefit from cheap fuel prices (and by the way - no, fossil fuels do not receive the equivalent of REFIT). 

And what cost to put on tourism and bloodstock jobs ?

The costs committed to in Ireland's Renewable Plan 

by Pat Swords BE CEng FIChemE CEnv MIEMA

Ireland's Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) was prepared in 2010 without any proper assessment of costs and impacts.  For instance if we take Table 10 on page 138, it gives us the bottom line, i.e. 4,094 MW of onshore wind and 555 MW of offshore:

Link to Ireland's Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP)

If for Ireland at €2 million per MW onshore (workings provided below) and at least €3 million per MW offshore, that is as near as be dammed €10 billion. Then we have the East West Interconnector at €0.6 billion, with more and even longer interconnectors to come to the UK and France - see page 79 of the NREAP -  so we can conservatively lob in another €3 billion for interconnectors. 

We also have Grid 25 at some €4 billion and potentially rising:
Not only is there over 800 km of high voltage in Grid 25, but as the All Island Grid Study demonstrated, there is an additional 5,000 km of medium voltage grid connections required to connect all these wind farms to the high voltage grid - see here and here.

So clearly there is already a billion euros gone to ESB for the medium voltage networks, in addition to Grid 25 which is Eirgird and the high voltage network.

So we are now well in excess of €18 billion for turbines, interconnectors, high voltage grids and medium voltage grids.

Then there is the roll out of smart meters, which are on page 77 of the NREAP. So we can throw in another billion or two there.

If we look at (former Green Party leader) John Gormley's Carbon budget:

  • The target is underpinned by analysis conducted in the recent All Island Grid Study which found that a 40% penetration is technically feasible, subject to upgrading our electricity grid and ensuring the development of flexible generating plant on the electricity system. 

So we have to mothball our current base load CCGTs at 55% efficiency to replace them with open cycle fast response gas turbines which are only 35% efficient. So given that a CCGT costs £0.9 million per MW installed (see page 16 below) and an open cycle plant (OCGT) about £0.6 million per MW installed (see page 26), and we are going to require at least 1,000 MW of fast response power to balance the grid fluctuations, there is going to be no change out of another € billion.

So all in all over €20 billion plus was committed in capital investment alone. To that you have to add the operating costs, profit for the wind investors, costs of inefficient operation of the grid and for what?

If you go to the bottom of the DCENR's REFIT page there is a link to Part III Supplementary Information.

Part III.10
Supplementary Information Sheet on environmental protection aid
Annual savings per 100 MWs installed
Tonnes of oxide

Carbon Dioxide
0.19  ml.

So this was what was claimed back in 2007 as the justification for all this so called 'environmental protection'. In other words for each 1,000 MWs of installed capacity, 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 savings.

If we go to the latest NREAP progress report to the EU, see below, we can see that the Irish NREAP progress report dated February 2014 claims 1,763 MW of wind energy by 2012 and 2,738,072 tonnes of CO2 savings. If we look at Table 1 b, then wind was responsible for (4,247 / 5,659 ) or 75% of the renewable electricity, therefore 2.05 million tonnes of CO2 savings. 

So this is 2.05 / 1.763 = 1.17 million tonnes of CO2 savings per 1,000 MW of installed capacity.

However, we do know this claimed for saving is untrue, as the calculation method is false, in that it does not allow for all the inefficiencies induced on the grid. See page 29 of the NREAP progress report:

  • The limitations and caveats associated with this methodology include that it ignores any plant used to meet the associated reserve requirements of renewables. These open cycle plants will typically have lower efficiency and generate increased CO2 and NOx emissions compared with CCGT and these emissions should be incorporated into the analysis. The purpose of presenting a simplified analysis here is to provide initial insights into the amount of fossil fuels that are displaced by renewables and the amount of emissions thereby avoided.

As they have been 'stung' by criticism of fraudulent claims, the SEAI produced yet another one of their reports. This time where they claim their modelling allows for inefficiencies on the grid, such that for 2012, wind saved 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 - link to new SEAI report

So now we are at 1.5 / 1.763 = 0.85 million tonnes per 1,000 MW of installed wind capacity, which is less than half of what they claimed for when REFIT was initiated back in 2007 to fund the building of this infrastructure in this place. Furthermore, it has to be said that the report above is highly suspect, in that the modelling in it concluded that more ramping up and down of gas plants occurred, when there was no wind on the grid, yet it is well known that power plant operators are complaining that they are now ramping their plants more to compensate for wind energy input (see example here). Indeed, the whole grid is being redesigned, not with the goal of fuel efficient generation, but instead to prioritise fast response, as the documentation from the Irish grid regulator below shows (plant with fast response do not use fuel as efficiently as slower operating ones). So the SEAI paper above is not truthful:

  • The management of variability and uncertainty is critical to a power system with high levels of wind penetration. Detailed analysis by the TSOs has shown that portfolios that are capacity adequate are unlikely to be adequate in terms of ramping over all the necessary timeframes to efficiently and effectively manage the variable renewable sources and changes in interconnector flows while maintaining system security - from All Island Project report

Not surprisingly, the ESB and other generators are against all of this:

So what are we actually doing, spending billions and billions, wrecking all of our grid and financial viability of our electricity services and all we can claim, using a dodgy computer model is that we have saved 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is nothing given that Ireland's own CO2 emissions are 58 million tonnes and global emissions are 35 billion tonnes per year.

So we saved 0.004% of global emissions, if we look at the UK Met office official data for global temperatures, with the vertical bars for uncertainty, then since we started all of this renewable gig in the EU in 1998, global temperatures have gone nowhere.


Are we mad, as we are certainly behaving that way?


Workings for cost of onshore wind in Ireland

  • The cost of onshore wind has been assessed internationally by a report completed for the German renewable industry, the main detail of which in relation to total investment costs (GIK -Gesamtinvestionkosten), can be found in the Table below:


  1. Irish Green party leader and former Energy Minister Eamon Ryan has an article in yesterday's Sunday Times claiming that fossil fuel for electricity generation will become obsolete and we are on our way to 100% renewable electricity generation. He advises us not to fight it, but to accept it inevitable. While in government he banned nuclear power completely which means most or all of our electricity will come from wind. The wind will also power 100% of transport. I kid you not.

    1. The Greens have never been known to let science stand in the way of a good ideological premise! The frightening thing is that they don't seem to care if they destroy the economy in doing so.

  2. A very useful synopsis for anybody who needs a quick lookup reference to refute the climate benefits claimed in an EIS for a wind farm planning application. It is quite staggering that the previous government committed to bankrupting the country, despoiling the countryside, eroding competitiveness and devaluing properties for a CO2 saving of 0.004% of global emissions. However, it beggars belief that the current regime have apparently set their faces against a mid-term review of the folly of their predecessors. Pat may well ask "are we mad?"

  3. Just a snip-bit on the subject. and one on the climate change thing