Thursday, 16 July 2015

Offshore Renewable Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment

In 2010, the Department of Energy and SEAI prepared a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for their Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP). To comply with the SEA Directive, alternatives to the Plan were considered, including the option not to implement the plan. So were these alternatives assessed correctly ?

It is accepted that there will be environmental impacts :

The SEA has identified that, in some locations, there is potential for the development of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy to have likely significant adverse effects on the environment. This is mainly off the west coast of Ireland which is recognised as being of significant environment and seascape/landscape importance/value. 

So considering that we are looking at significant and irreversible impacts on our coastal and ocean environment (and species), what are the impacts of not implementing the plan ?

Potential effects relating to not combating climate change such of continued effects on temperature, sea levels, precipitation, storminess, sea temperatures and these effects of these on species and habitat distribution and abundance, food chains etc. 

 This is misleading for two reasons. Firstly, whatever Ireland does to combat climate change will be reversed by many multiples by China and India who are building coal plants to meet their world record energy demands. If we even look closer to home, the Netherlands are building three new coal plants with total capacity equal to four Moneypoint coal power stations. Germany are also reliant on new coal power stations :

Water vapour rises from the cooling towers of a brown coal power station in Germany

Ireland does not have a separate climate to Netherlands, Germany or China so if man made climate change will result in an environmental catastrophe here in Ireland, the decisions which can prevent it will need to be taken outside Ireland.

Secondly, the effect of climate change on temperature is still uncertain. The raw records (as opposed to the modified ones) from Valentia Observatory show no remarkable increase in temperature :

Indeed, understanding of the climate and the mechanisms that control it is still not properly understood by scientists. It was alleged by James Delingpole that the following extract from the draft IPCC report was altered for the Summary for Policy Makers :

None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed changes to the specific case of increases in greenhouse gases [sic]. No study to date has positively attributed all or part of the climate change  observed to man made causes. Any claims of positive detection and attribution of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced. Will an anthropogenic climate [signal] be identified. It is not surprising that the best answer to the question is  “ We don’t know”.

This extract now seems to be deleted from the IPCC website since 2011 :

So there is absolutely no certainty that the negative impacts on the environment in the "Not Implementing the Offshore Renewable Plan" will actually occur or indeed that Ireland can do anything to prevent it anyhow.

But it is a certain certainty that there will be significant impacts on the ocean and its habitats by installing renewable energy and offshore grid infrastructure in implementing this plan.

So the impact on the Irish environment from climate change is both uncertain and out of our hands in any case and should not be included in this assessment. But the environmental impact of going ahead with this plan is both certain and as a direct result of actions the Irish government take. Therefore, the latter needs to be given full consideration in the assessment.

Other impacts include volatility of prices of electricity from fossil fuels and the implications of these on business/enterprise in Ireland as well as the effects on domestic customers in terms of fuel poverty etc. 

This should not be an issue as the reverse is actually true. Offshore energy will require a higher subsidy than onshore energy due to its higher capital costs. As onshore renewable energy is already higher than fossil fuel generated energy, offshore will then be even higher. There are also extra costs from further increasing the surplus of generation capacity and installing a new grid. So electricity bills will increase from implementing the plan, not from not implementing it.

Limitations relating to intermittency of supply from onshore wind. In comparison tidal energy is much more predictable and constant and offshore wind is generally less intermittent. 
Once again, there is no actual evidence to back this up.  The following graph comes from a presentation by Mark O'Malley of UCD Engineering Department :

 We can see that there is a high correlation of wind and wave energy. In otherwords, when the wind is blowing, so too are the waves rolling. And vice versa.  Offshore wind does tend to have higher capacity factors (i.e. output) but would still be classified as non dispatchable i.e. it can't be switched on at will unlike a conventional plant.

So the benefits of this enormous plan are still not clear to the ordinary citizen. The benefits to the country from not implementing it are also not made clear - maintenance of our pristine ocean environment and habitat, lower energy costs and therefore more jobs, less surplus capacity, more reliable electricity and improved tourism image (which also results in more jobs).

The SEA Directive states :

Member States shall ensure that environmental reports are of a sufficient quality to meet the requirements of this Directive

What do you think - is this assessment of "sufficient quality"  and an examination of all alternatives when all options are open or is it just rubber-stamping of a decision already made ?


  1. The law as laid down in the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive us being broken. Meanwhile in Britain, the crows are coming home to roost.

  2. There's a good few things going on in this post - I'll mention just a few of them:
    "The raw records (as opposed to the modified ones) from Valentia Observatory show no remarkable increase in temperature" - not true. While there has been no marked increase in the maximum average temperatures measured in Valentia, there is definitely an upward slope in the minimum average temperature. If you don't believe me, request the data at this link and you'll have it in 30 seconds:

    Just to go further on this item - even if there was no discernible change in Valentia, this would not be the proof of anything either. Just this month Munich experienced its hottest temperature since human record-keeping began. Is this proof the temperature is rising? No. It's the aggregation of many many temperature stations throughout the world which shows that there is a rising in average global temperatures.

    Another one; "It was alleged by James Delingpole". This is the guy who exposed "Climategate", which was later shown to be complete fluff. Again, if you dont' believe me:
    He also gave a speech at the American Heartland Institute - the primary supporter in America of climate change denial. Hmmmm, I can hear pennies dropping :)

    It's true that there are coal stations popping up left right and centre all over Europe and it's true that FF's are most definitely a very important part of the energy infrastructure. Times are changing however, and particularly so in the energy industry, and if Ireland (and every other EU country) does not meet its 202020 targets then it's going to get a right hefty financial kick in the backside.

    It's been mentioned a few times that Ireland is so small that it doesn't matter. Of course it matters - divestment to alternative energy forms brings with it a massive leap forward in technological achievement and brings with it energy security, which, as I'm sure you know is a major issue for Ireland as it imports 90% of its energy.
    And before Corrib gets mentioned - this is a field which will be beyond its peak producion in 6 or 7 years.

    And just a quick mention of the UK; The reason the crows are coming home to roost is because they approve projects such as Hinkley point. At a time when prices are falling they are guaranteeing 95 POUNDS (and inflation linked) per MWh for 35 years. It's crazy stuff.

    1. 1) The raw data for Valentia can be seen here

      One can see that during the 1940s temps hit over 11C.

      It has been shown that the raw data in other stations were also adjusted :

      2) Wikipedia is not an accurate source. William Connolly has edited out over 5400 sceptical revisions to the Climate Change and all related global warming entries. Delingpole did not reveal Climategate. It was an unknown person , probably on the payroll of the UEA CRU who placed the email threads on a Russian Server in the run up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

      3) I cant see how the EC is going to fine Ireland over a programme that was ruled by UNECE as non compliant with Aarhus Convention in the first place :

      4) The SEA cites climate change as a major justification for this project. This is not scientific. We have the same climate as every other country. It is a simple scientific fact that we are too small to bring about a change in that climate.

      SEAs should not cite opinions, but facts only -"sufficient quality"

      5) Uk have a shortage of dispatchable baseload plant because they invested too much in non dispatchable renewable generation. That is why they are now turning to quick fix diesel generators.

    2. (1) It clearly says on that website; "In line with the general temperature trend, there is an increase in the number of days with temperatures over 20°C, and a decrease in the number of days with temperatures below zero". I don't get it, why would you post a website which doesn't support your argument?

      (2) Do you think William Connolly deliberately misled regarding CC or do you think he corrected misleading information? Do you believe that the independent inquiries into Climategate deliberately misled people?

      (3) Let's wait and see regarding the fines.

      (4) You're correct; we are too small to make a change, BUT, we are not too small to make a difference.

      (5) So, renewables get blamed for the UK government not having enough baseload dispatchable plant, even though they know full well that renewables cannot provide for this.

  3. 1) Calling me a denier is a human assumption. It assumes there is global warming proven and those who deny it are illogical. Patrick Nyberg referred to the "Group Think" syndrome in his examination of the banking collapse. Why must each member of society conform to group think? IPCC boss Rejenda Pachuri stated on leaving office that it had become a religion. There was never a public debate on this, why? 2) EU fines are man made laws, introduced by unelected officials and the laws also allow mitigation of co2 using wind and solar energy. This is a huge roll out of concrete and steel, altering the landscape of Europe. It clearly requires compliance with the SEA Directive. This is by-passed for the 2009/28/EC and Ireland's NREAP. Why? 3) Britain has now pulled the subsidies going forward and Australia cut them even more. The consensus is already breaking up. 4) Wind/solar/imports cannot exceed 50% of demand and cannot displace base load plant. The credit capacity is derisory, instead of shutting FF plant down, it requires more and more FF plant. How can that reduce dependence of imported FF while Germany and Holland are building FF plant? What alternative have you to importing FF? 6) In regard to the UK, surely the point is that when all the guffaw about powering the UK from native and Irish wind was being peddled, why did no proponent mention the fact that wind cannot power anything on a calm day? It can only prevent blackouts if the wind is blowing? What do they do when it is not blowing. How did we every manage to go for such an adventure without at least asking a few engineers? Answering that question requires a degree of genius beyond mine. It must be some fault in the logical process of some people and sometimes they get to have a say.

  4. You're correct; we are too small to make a change, BUT, we are not too small to make a difference. i agree with that

  5. Anonymys had right with all not ony point 4

  6. Measurements of polar ice began by satellite in 1979 not long enough to be of any use. Fines for non compliance are a man made phenomena for failing to achieve targets arrived at without any proper investigation and based on assumptions. The EU commission is not a democratic institution. I invite Sandra to tell us what is the difference between 1) a change and 2) a difference? The danger to our species is much greater from cooling than from warming and the dying process is much more painful, yet only alleged warming deaths are reported in the media. Readers should start their own investigation by viewing you tube videos of Lord Christopher Monkton and checking the web site of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. It is the biggest cost you will ever face, and unless you look into it will continue. In the next election, political parties will try to avoid it in debates and concentrate of side issues which are no where near as costly in financial and environmental terms. Now the Pope has sided with the warmers, to which I ask humorously "is he setting up a Vatican infallible weather forecasting service" . Remember, those who push climate change told us wind energy would help abate it, now we see that is untrue. Where does it leave their credibility?

  7. If there is a serious shortfall in generation capability in Britain this winter, they may ask Ireland to supply a continuous 500 mw through the E/W interconnector. We may be able to oblige, fair enough, but the carbon footprint of generating that in Ireland falls on Ireland. We (not Britain) may be fined for exceeding targets.