A review of energy policy calls for an end to subsidies for offshore wind and wave electricity generators, and a curbing of subsidies for onshore wind turbines.
The review by the Economic and Social Research Institute also calls for gas from the Corrib field in Co Mayo to be brought ashore urgently, to bolster energy security.
The recession has reduced demand for energy in Ireland, and increased the need to reduce energy costs to Irish businesses and homes.
Coupled with the higher cost of capital due to the perceived risk of investing in Ireland, the ESRI says energy-related spending plans should be reviewed and policies changed.
It calls for the scrapping of subsidies to offshore wind and wave power installations, saying they could impose high costs on Irish consumers with no environmental benefit.
Onshore wind turbines can provide the energy needed, and can be justified as a hedge against high gas prices, it adds.
The review says the climate change bill could have imposed high costs on the Irish economy without environmental gains, and says future climate change policy must minimise the cost of compliance.
It also says Ireland’s electricity supply is at risk because almost all natural gas – which fuels 57% of the State’s power stations – comes through a single pipeline from Scotland.
To overcome this vulnerability, the State either needs to invest in a second gas interconnector, or move urgently to ensure that Shell brings the Corrib gas field into production, the ESRI argues.
This would provide the State with two sources of gas supply for the next five years, at no cost to the taxpayer, it says.
Nuclear power ‘would cost too much’ — ESRI
By Paul Melia
THE State’s economic think-tank has ruled out nuclear power for Ireland because it would cost too much and would not be acceptable to the public.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) will today say that the public should not be forced to subsidise the generation of electricity from renewable sources, and that the State should only invest a small amount developing wave and ocean technologies.
The Review of Irish Energy Policy, to be published today, states that bringing gas from the Corrib gas field in Co Mayo ashore is “vital”. But the Government needs to “rethink” its energy policy, it says.
“Demand is lower and we have to plan for an uncertain future,” Professor John Fitzgerald said.
“Nuclear (power) will never be economic. The large size of standard plants makes them uneconomic and because onshore wind is already so successful, this will make investment in new nuclear plants uneconomic.
“Public concern about nuclear generation would mean that even if the economic considerations favoured nuclear, any decision to build a nuclear plant would be likely to generate major opposition,” he added.
The ESRI is also critical about the lack of clearly defined policies on how renewable energy sources such as offshore wind, wave and tidal should be developed. The State should not be subsidising this research, it said.
The Government has a scheme called a Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT), which guarantees the price wind farm operators and offshore projects get for generating power.
It is designed to stimulate the growth of the renewable energy industry.
“The REFIT scheme for technologies other than onshore wind should be ended. Offshore wind, tidal and wave power are all technologies that are worth researching as they could possibly eventually prove cost effective in some locations in the world,” the report says.
“It could make sense to provide some limited public support for research in this area, however, the scale of the support should recognise that there is no guarantee that new developments in this field will benefit Ireland.”
The ESRI says 56pc of our electricity is produced from gas.
“We’re so dependent on gas, especially for electricity generation, and if we lost our supply it would have catastrophic effects,” Prof Fitzgerald said.
“People will die in hospital, businesses will close and traffic lights will not work.”
He also said that two electricity pipelines called interconnectors would have to be built so excess wind power could be exported to the UK and the continent.
“We’ll need another one or two interconnectors before the end of the decade. Mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure the wind comes on stream at the same time as the interconnectors,” he added.