Monday 27 February 2017

Why does Wind Energy still require a subsidy ?

In 2015, wind generation accounted for 22.8% of the electricity generated and was the second largest source of electricity generation after natural gas - SEAI.

The SEAI have reported that wind was the second largest source of electricity generation and ahead of coal power for the first time in 2015.

This means it is now providing a considerable amount of power in a given year. Neither gas or coal power receive a subsidy. Instead they receive the market price.

Coal produced the same amount of power in 2014 as wind did in 2015 (22%) but without a subsidy.

So this begs the question - why does wind power still require a subsidy to compete when it is now out-competing coal ?

Friday 24 February 2017

Ireland's Debt Problem

An economic policy based on rising debt and low corporate tax rates is not and never was sound policy - by Owen Martin

While the Irish media make a fuss over who will be the next leader of Ireland's biggest political party (Fine Gael), everybody ignores the real elephant in the room. According to the European Banking Authority, Ireland has the largest combined private and government debt as a percentage of GDP in the EU and two thirds higher than that of the US. 

 I'm not sure how this graph is not sending shockwaves through the Trump obsessed Irish media and political establishment - From EBA 

While Greece, Italy and Portugal have higher Government debt, Ireland's private sector debt to GDP dwarfs those countries. Which means that for the size of Ireland's economy, it's private sector has taken on alot of debt.

But not only businesses and industry. We have the 5th highest household debt as percentage of net disposable income in EU with about twice as much debt as income per household. This may explain how we rank so high in numbers of new cars across the EU.   People are taking out car loans that perhaps they can't really afford. It shows that we as a nation are still addicted to debt.

Denmark, Netherlands, Iceland and Norway all have higher household debt than Ireland but these countries are doing much better when it comes to Government debt as percentage of GDP. Ireland ranks 5th in terms of Government debt to GDP. So while Greece and Italy have higher levels of government debt, they have about half of the household and private sector debt. Denmark's high level of household debt doesn't seem as bad considering they have half of Ireland's Government debt to GDP. 

Norway have the wealthiest government in Europe. In fact, they are far ahead of second place Luxembourg and Finland. Norway has slightly more household debt than Ireland. But that kinda makes sense - they are a wealthy country. Ireland has the 5th poorest Government in Europe (Italy and Greece lie at the bottom). Our government has dismal revenue, in part thanks to our low corporation tax rates. Yet we carry roughly the same household debt as Norway and have an even higher private sector debt to GDP.  This is called "living beyond our means".  Yes, Ireland could do with the € 13 billion in tax revenue owed from Apple. Laughably, the Irish government is appealing this decision

Irish Govt has the worst revenue in Europe yet reject a €13 billion EU tax ruling made in Ireland's favour

Of course if all that debt was used wisely, perhaps we could become richer. We are reliant on Norway's gas which arrives to us through UK pipelines. The Irish government have banned fracking so this dependence will continue for the foreseeable future. Imagine if some of that debt was being used to extract our own gas reserves.

Ireland spends the most on health after Iceland in Europe, yet we still have a permanently dysfunctional health system

Ireland has the third highest electricity prices in Europe.

The Irish government takes pride in divesting from fossil fuels and pushing through massive renewables and electricity infrastructure programmes that cost billions and without any proper assessment in the name of climate change.  We pride ourselves on having a massive welfare program and our representatives want to take in more refugees (without any proper assessment). Green/Left politicians cry out as to why we don't do more to tackle climate change, take on more debt (One cannot go the EIB looking for €5 million or €10 million; one needs to go looking for €2 billion. It is there.) and take in more refugees. Ireland is trying to save the world on a sinking ship but our politicians and media don't even realize we are on one.  Have we learned anything from the crash in 2008 ?


On the positive side, exports are still strong and benefit from the stronger dollar as against the euro. If we went back to our own currency, it would be a strong one as the above graph shows. Presumably thanks to our exports. However, the weaker sterling is not good for exports to Britain. There is a chance that Ireland may actually benefit from Brexit if companies there relocate to Ireland.

Ireland has managed to get out of it's budget deficit abyss and back to something fairly normal. If Multinationals move out we could see some real problems, but we would no longer see the massive distortions to our GDP anymore. Perhaps that could be a good thing in the long run. Living on a false economy (now known as Leprechaun economics) is what got us into trouble last time.

I can't see how Ireland's economic fundamentals are much different to that of the Celtic Tiger era.   If anything, things have got worse.

Monday 20 February 2017

The French - Irish Interconnector

Pat Swords on the proposed Interconnector from Ireland to France :

JP Morgan famously said: “A man has two reasons, the good reason and the real reason”. Thought about that today when I saw the latest spin from Eirgrid, i.e. spending €1 billion of our money, which was of course for our wonderful benefit:
One has to laugh at the total ignorance of the press, do they ever actually think about the crap they write, although if we had to pay to read it like in the past, nobody really would anymore.
This €1 billion interconnector to France is to power 450,000 homes and increase security of supply, which is a bit daft, as we already have a system, which does that and has been ultra reliable for decades, so why do we need to spend another €1 billion on another one to do the same thing?
Yes France has a lot of cost competitive nuclear, but when the cold weather hits France, their electricity consumption soars, as they have a lot of domestic electric heating. If you don’t believe me watch the dial on the top left when the cold weather comes in, they are really struggling to match demand during these periods
When the cold weather hits France it often hits here too. So if we bring in French nuclear off peak and at competitive prices, this is a short term gain, but means that some of our existing generation capacity will simply in time shut up shop. So what happens then when it gets real cold? Of course the French will suffer blackouts, as the lovely new interconnector keeps sending French electricity to Ireland. After all there is plenty of precedent of such issues and how we can rely on the EU’s trading ‘rules’ when the ‘chips are down’:
Maybe people will smell the coffee when the power eventually comes back on and they can brew it?
So let’s get down to the real reason, which one will never get from the so called professionally paid news media. One has to ferret it out oneself, such as using the Aarhus information rights utilised effectively in the article above. However, isn’t it amazing how our so called ‘public servants’ (don’t make me laugh), try every trick in the book to obstruct citizens seeking information, even to the point of breaking the laws, which apply to them?
With regard to this wonderful interconnector, it is part of the EU’s Projects of Common Interest, which has been part of a long drawn out Communication at UNECE, which is in its final phase with the draft findings and recommendations likely to be out this spring. The EU fought tooth and nail, right to the head civil servant in the EU Catherine Day (wouldn’t you know it Irish!), that nobody would have access to information relating to the justification for these projects. However, go to Annex 6 of the Communication and Questionnaire for E 153 – Grid Link (page 83/119 of the pdf)
“This investment is planned primarily to facilitate the integration of 1,283 MW of wind generation in the south of the country. This is approximately equivalent to 0,054 GW/1000 km2 based on GW of additional wind installed within county boundaries. Because of the favourable wind conditions on the island of Ireland and offshore there is interest (evidenced by applications for grid connections) in developing renewable generation capacity well in excess of what is required for native demands. The connection of such capacity can only be facilitated if further interconnection is installed to provide access for this generation to the British and continental European markets, in addition it will facilitate future interconnection to Great Britain or France.”
One of the things that is strikingly clear, is that the Irish grid system can’t take more wind without a major build-out, which includes more interconnectors. So developers may well get their planning for wind turbines, but the realty of project completion and operation hinges on other developments in grid infrastructure, including those interconnectors. The East West interconnector, linking Malahide to the Welsh grid, cost Irish consumers over €600 million and the UK consumers not a cent. It was raised, but not addressed in the first Communication I brought in 2010 to UNECE.
For instance, the below from what is a ‘Green tinged (and funded) German think Tank’:
Social cost benefit analysis of interconnector investment: A critical appraisal
Bremen Energy Working Paper No. 02, July 2010 (published in Energy Policy, 39(6), 2011, pp. 3096-3105.) Michiel de Nooij
“Some, like the European commission, claim that Europe needs more transmission capacity and interconnectors. This paper studies interconnector investment decisions from the perspective of a social cost benefit analysis (maximising total welfare in a country). For two European decisions to build an interconnector (NorNed and the East West Interconnector) the analysis underlying the decisions is discussed in detail, and will be compared with lessons from theory and decisions made in other jurisdictions (Nordel, California and Australia). The key findings are that (i) it is unclear how much demand for transmission capacity and interconnectors there actually is, and thus how large the benefits of investing will be. (ii) Both studies analyzed are not correct. Main criticism includes that they do not take the reaction of producers to new interconnection capacity into account; ignore part of the potential benefits of more competition; and make a strange assumption with respect to discounting. (iii) Decisions in Europe are taken very differently, leading to situations in which approval of an investment might depend on who has to approve. (iv) Therefore, it is unlikely that interconnector and transmission investment decisions in Europe currently are maximizing social welfare. Some lessons for future cost benefit analysis are drawn.”
In other words, the figures were a fudge and there was no rational economic justification for it, it all came down to ‘who has to approve’!
This same point came up with the Irish Academy of Engineering’s report in 2009:
“1.2.3 East­West Interconnection (EWIC), In July 2006, the Irish Government decided to construct an interconnector from Ireland to Great Britain. It would appear that this decision was taken without the benefit of a robust techno‐economic study or cost benefit analysis.  
In addition it is not clear that the main benefit, the “capacity savings”, amounting to some €40m annually out of a total annual benefit of €66m, would be attainable under current market rules, as the benefit would appear to imply 100% usage of the interconnector. The Academy understands for example that during 2008 the usage factor on the Moyle interconnector was approximately 14%. This would appear to indicate a much lower likely benefit from EWIC.”
Looks like Eirgrid are happy to dismiss these issues for their projects on the basis that the punters and decision makers (a shower of punters with our money) only read the crap in the Irish Independent, etc., which is a reproduction of what they feed the lazy journos in the first place.
God help us from all this stupidity and the appalling mess it leaves behind, as if we didn’t have A&Es and hospitals crying out for investment, etc.

French Grid Case Study - 20th January 2017

Figure 1
Figure 2

On 20th Jan, as demand hit 93.8GW (Figure 2), France was dependent on over 4.5GW of imports (Figure 1). In previous years, France was a net exporter. At the same time in Ireland, wind was only at 30% of max output leaving nothing for export if an interconnector to France was in place. Most likely French grid operators were engaging in load shedding to prevent blackouts - see here for more details 

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Recent Protests in Dublin

Members of the Campaign Group United Against Racism during the rally

Image result for protests dublin trump

--Protests outside American Embassy against America's refugee policy. America has admitted about 40,000 refugees to date.

--Protests outside Japan Embassy against their refugee policy. Japan has admitted 28 refugees to date.

Sunday 12 February 2017

Price of Electricity and Renewables Revisited

Previous work by Willis Eschenbach and Euan Mearns showed the relationship between Electricity costs and per capita installed renewable capacity. A new European Commission report shows the increases in electricity prices since 2010. I put this on a graph alongside the increase in share of electricity from renewable sources [Figure 1].

Figure 1 : Increase in electricity prices 2010-2015 plotted alongside increase in share 
of renewables in electricity generation 2010-2014

So the UK went from renewables providing 7% of electricity generation in 2010 to 17% in 2014 resulting in almost a 50% increase in prices over the same period. Ireland is in the top five increases in electricity prices over this period. Denmark seems to be an outlier (although they started off from very high prices) but most countries who invested heavily in renewables saw a sharp rise in electricity prices. 

Something that struck me was the proliferation of PIIGS countries at the top of the graph. So I labelled the top government indebted countries on the same graph [Figure 2] :

Figure 2: Top 7 member states with highest Government debt as % of GDP 

Greece, Italy and Portugal are the top 3 indebted countries in the EU (Debt of general government, as a percentage of GDP). Most of the countries investing heavily in renewables are also running up the biggest fiscal deficits. They have put environmental sustainability above economic sustainability. However, surely the two are linked ? If capitalism is the driver of climate change then living beyond your means must be twice as bad.


1)  Monitoring progress towards the Energy Union objectives – key indicators - see Page 62

2)  Share of electricity from renewable sources in gross electricity consumption (%) - unfortunately this only goes up to 2014, whereas the prices in 1) goes up to 2015, so if a more recent report comes out I will update this blog. Still, Figure 1 is indicative of the electricity price/ RES-E trend.

3)  Risk Assessment of the EU Banking System - See Figure 1

Sunday 5 February 2017

The Great Wind Farm Sell-Off

A Canadian wind energy group, Brookfield Renewable, has recently decided to sell 130MW of Irish wind farms. It bought the wind farms in 2014 when Bord Gais were selling off it's assets. 

Gaelectric, an Irish wind company, are selling off 230MW of Irish wind farms to a Chinese energy group - CGNEE.  

This recent trend of selling Irish wind farm assets may have something to do with a High Court case involving Enercon Wind Farm Services and a group of residents in Banteer, Co.Cork. While the case is not yet settled and due for hearing again in April, one Irish newspaper published reports that Enercon have accepted liability for nuisance, this was then disputed by Irish Wind Energy Association, and the article has being taken down.

My sources tell me that the residents have being forced to move out due to noise and disturbance from the nearby wind farm.

UPDATE : The newspaper in question has today published that seven families are on course to receive damages in this case :

Saturday 4 February 2017

More Fake News - Dystopian Novels and Trump

"The best books, he perceived, are those that [can be misinterpreted to] tell you what you know already." - 1984, George Orwell [slightly amended by the blog author]
by Owen Martin

Everyday now fake news arrives unashamedly onto our shop shelves. The latest fad is to misinterpret dystopian novels so that they can be applied to the Trump presidency. Irish Times recommends 1984, Animal Farm and Brave New World to their readers.  News organisations around the world are also pushing the same narrative - Vox, CNN, Independent, Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post.    

Fake News is something that appears true on the surface but upon closer examination is evidently false. 

Animal Farm was about the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the period of Communism that followed. All Communists oppose Trump

Both 1984 and Brave New World were about the dangers of the Big State. In 1984, it was called Big Brother, in Brave New World it was called World State. Trump's policies are to cut taxes, reduce government regulations and freeze Federal hiring. The exact polar opposite of what a Big State would do. 

All communist countries suffer from over-regulation and central planning.  

A World State is what climate hustlers have being demanding for years now. Trump is a climate skeptic and wants nothing to do with a World State.

This proves that there is a distinct lack of intellectual capacity at the mainstream news organisations. New readers of these books will inadvertently be reading about the dangers of the Big State, not Trump. The Big State that most of these news organisations and the Left support. 

But what about the Newspeak that comes from the Trump administration ? Orwell makes it clear that the purpose of Newspeak is to restrict thought and ideas. In 2017, Newspeak could only resemble the Left's constant use of Political Correctness as a tool to suppress speech and ideas. 

Scott Adams uses the idea of the Persuasion Filter to explain how people can see two different movies when presented with the same set of facts. If people are watching a movie where Trump is Hitler and therefore the end of the world is nigh, then all dystopian novels (and most definitely the famous ones) must apply to Trump. However, this means living in an inverted world where a book about Communism and the Big State can apply to a free market Capitalist who you happen to dislike.   

Persuasion by Inversion.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Ireland the First Country to Divest from Fossil Fuels (Or Is It?)

The Irish government has passed a bill forcing the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) to divest from fossil fuel companies.  Apparently, we are the first country in the world to do so. 

When I checked the ISIF website, I couldnt find one company representing fossil fuels. I contacted ISIF on Monday but have yet to receive a response.  I also asked the TD responsible for the bill, Thomas Pringle, he said there were 132 companies including the Dakota pipeline company for a total of €133 million but that no list was available.

A document on the ISIF website states :
for example may include projects in sectors such as water, telecoms, broadband, energy (wind/other renewables/energy efficiency) and forestry. 

This document was published in July 2015, well before the recent bill about fossil fuels was enacted. So I'm still in the dark as to what exactly Ireland has divested from. 

The North Dakota pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Partners which is an oil and gas company. However, one of their directors, Rick Perry, who was appointed as Secretary for Energy by President Trump, helped erect 11,000MW of wind energy during his term as Governor for Texas. So they are not exactly anti renewables. 

This fact neatly explains the futility of such a bill. If you installed 11,000MW of wind in Ireland, you would still need oil and gas. If you've stopped investing in oil and gas and bet everything on renewables, then the lights go out.  

With Ireland recently banning fracking, it looks like we will be completely dependent on others for reliable energy sources. Not exactly something to be proud of.