Friday, 10 November 2017

The New Renewable Electricity Support Scheme

The consultation for the forthcoming Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) ends today. Here is my submission :

A Floating Feed in Premium (FIP) which reduces over time to nil as the generators borrowings are paid down should be the primary financial support mechanism for the main RESS. This makes a lot of sense with regard to Irish wind energy which is now a mature technology, where there are no fuel costs and where Irish wind farms have access to the best wind resources in Europe.

I believe that LCOE is not a good measure for comparing different sources of generation.  As is well known, the system effects of uncontrollable variable renewables are not adequately addressed by LCOE, since adding uncontrollable variable renewables to a system increases overall costs (new grid and operating procedures, suboptimal operation of the conventional fleet and new fast acting plant required as back up), all of which tends to reduce system productivity thus increasing costs. LCOE doesn’t capture this, so a Total System Cost analysis is required to discover what the probable effect would be on the consumer. This does not appear to have been carried out.

I therefore do not agree with the statement that “the least-cost RES-e mix would consist of mostly onshore wind”.

Indeed, the system costs will rise exponentially with the higher levels of wind proposed in RESS as conventional plant will be forced to run at far below their optimal efficiency*.  

This means that the viability gaps of various renewable technologies are not comparable as stated in the RESS report. Some technologies incur less system costs (like biomass which can use the existing grid), some incur more.

In an analysis carried out by Irish Energy Blog, it was found that even without including the additional grid investment required for wind and other system costs, we have to spend € 1.00 on wind energy to replace 40 cents worth of fossil fuels. This does not represent value for money to the consumer nor is it a cost effective way of reducing fossil fuel imports.  I would support instead investing in energy efficiency and in particular Passive Housing as a more cost effective way of reducing emissions.

Best wind location in Europe

“Ireland has one of the best onshore wind locations in Europe. Purely from a technical perspective, ignoring all other considerations, the unrestricted technical potential for onshore wind would be more than sufficient to meet Ireland’s energy needs”.

I fail to understand why, if the above statement is true, Irish onshore wind requires a high support scheme. Surely if Ireland has one of the best onshore wind locations in Europe, then a lower support scheme would be required than other European countries as the resource is greater.

In Germany, onshore wind receives € 4.66cent – 8.38cent per kWh (according to duration of payment) (§ 46 EEG 2017) minus €0.40 cent per kWh (§ 53 no. 2 EEG 2017) compared with    € 6.72 cent per kWh (5.1 and 5.2 REFIT 2) in Ireland.  The support scheme in Germany reduces over time which makes sense as the wind farms loans are paid down over the same period. A similar “reducing” scheme should now be adopted by Ireland given that Irish onshore wind is a mature technology and has access to the best wind resources in Europe.  This would provide best value for money to the consumer. The support scheme should eventually reduce to nil after a fixed period of say 10 years.

This would ensure that our society is not locked into high energy costs for many years to come.

*Increased costs of combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) running inefficiently to provide back up for when the wind does not blow were estimated to rise by €175 million per annum according to a 2014 Single Electricity Market report.


  1. A monitor installed by me in County Cavan, Ireland and converted to potential wind farm output showed a likely load factor of 24.1% over 2008 and 2009. Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University gave the figure for later years at 24% for all of the UK. This is well below the figures for Nordic countries. So the claim that Ireland has the best wind speeds in Europe is false. The figure given in recent planning applications in the Irish Midlands accepted factors would be 20% at best.

    This is hitting income badly as a percentage above about 25% is needed to break even. The larger wind energy companies are struggling under massive debt. Their business model is to build wind farms, rising massive debt and sell on immediately paying off the debt and getting money to build again. The Chinese were approached by Gaelectric and they offered to clear the 400 million euro debt but declined to pay any capital. They want Gaelectric to prove it can raise its own capital. The markets are beginning to cop on that this will lead to tears.

  2. Planning permission has been granted for a 22.4 mW wind farm at Taghart in East Cavan, Ireland. No permission was granted for the connecting cables. Now the company has lodged a planning application for an underground cable from the site to Meath Hill electricity substation 9 kilometers away.
    They have not said if its to be A/C or D/C, but it looks like its D/C. The Voltage must be kept below 30KVA, about 30,000 kilo Watts. So how much of the output will arrive to do work at the substation? Losses would be massive over 9 X 2 (return cables) = 18 km. (5.5 miles). Power will be lost through heat. Do they know what they are doing. I sent in a submission. I reckon the amperage will be about 700 amps.

  3. The Renewable Energy Support Scheme has a major deficiency in that it places no obligation on private generators to underwrite the grid changes and reinforcements necessary to facilitate their connection. A wake up call concerning the future of the Irish electrical distribution infrastructure is published in the Telegraph at:

    The piece tells us that the FTSE 100 operator of Britain’s pipes and wires is pouring more than half of its spending into projects in the North East of the US where regulators are encouraging billions of dollars in low carbon investments. National Grid invested £2bn in the last six months, of which 55pc was ploughed into the US market where profits are on the rise. Meanwhile in the UK, the group faces increasing political scrutiny over its role at the heart of the energy industry. This has forced the company to defend itself against calls to replace National Grid with a Government-owned body.

    Are we about to see Eirgrid and ESB investing in other jurisdictions which have a better ROI than Ireland?

  4. The LCOE and all official output projections for the Irish Wind Program are wildly exaggerations. Typically they expect wind turbines to last 20 years with no output drop . When In reality in the Danish Data( of decommissioned wind turbines 1977 to 2014) the only wind turbine which lasted as long( a little bit longer) was a 22 kilowatt wind turbine commissioned in 1977. As wind turbines increased in size their operational lives decreased . As did their output. Research indicates that a 50% drop in capacity factor should be anticipated every 6 years. Also it should be stated that using a spacial planning system to commission wind farms is useless . As wind turbines are production units id est machines. The planning system should be based on maximising the operational lives and output of these machines. It is recommended that wind turbines with large hub diameter's( over 90 meters) should have a separation of 15 times the hub diameter. The "Irish Standard" of 500 meters looses 40 % of the production of down wind turbines. Also as the density of wind turbines increases , in a particular area, wind energy available for conversion into electricity will ultimately drop by 86%. Therefore the feed price as source of income will become largely irrelevant. As the output produced will be so small. The wind turbines will become almost totally dependent on non production related income. To supply the market they will be forced to install more synchronous production plant and pay off the loans of non functioning wind turbines at the same time. Clever

  5. "Two methods for estimating limits to large-scale wind
    power generation"
    "Lee M. Millera,1, Nathaniel A. Brunsellb, David B. Mechemb, Fabian Gansa, Andrew J. Monaghanc, Robert Vautardd,David W. Keithe, and Axel Kleidonaa"
    Wind turbines generate electricity by removing kinetic energy
    from the atmosphere. We show that the limited replenishment
    of kinetic energy from aloft limits wind power generation rates
    at scales sufficiently large that horizontal fluxes of kinetic energy
    can be ignored. We evaluate these factors with regional
    atmospheric model simulations and find that generation limits
    can be estimated from the ‟preturbine” climatology by comparatively
    simple means, working best when the atmosphere
    between the surface and hub height is naturally well-mixed
    during the day. Our results show that the reduction of wind
    speeds and limited downward fluxes determine the limits in
    large-scale wind power generation to less than 1 W·m−2."

    I bet that they did not know about this research when they started shooting their mouths off about Ireland having the best resource in Europe. Energy can only be used once. Originally it was assumed by several"academic and
    government research studies estimate large-scale wind power electricity
    generation rates of up to 7We·m−2"