An article in yesterday’s Irish Times quotes Brian Motherway, the Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland making three outrageous claims about wind power in Ireland:
- Wind Power has saved Ireland more than €1 billion in imported energy costs – sort of wrong (these are weasel words)
- Wind Power has cut greenhouse gas emissions – sort of wrong (now I am being weasely)
- Wind Power has not added to customer’s energy bills – just plain wrong
Looking at point one, what is he saying? Has Ireland saved €1 billion? That is what it appears to mean, that is why it is worded that way. That is what spin is all about, appearing to mean one thing but actually saying something different. Looking at the mechanics of wind energy, wind turbines are at the best 25% efficient while gas, coal and oil are about 85% efficient and nuclear 92%. These figures all take into account down time for maintenance/breakdown etc. So we can be absolutely certain that wind power has not saved the tax payers of Ireland €1 billion. It is more likely that it has cost Ireland €1 billion (and some) in extra energy costs. Every Mega Watt of wind energy generated is heavily subsidised by the Irish tax payer. So while €1 billion may have been saved in imported energy it has cost substantially more than €1 billion to make that “saving”.
Point two. Has wind power cut greenhouse gas emissions? Not unless the wind turbine is more than 16 years old. This is because it takes 16 years to pay back the CO2 debt created when the turbine was built. The vast quantities of concrete required to build the enormous base of a wind turbine generates as much CO2 as the turbine will save in its first 16 years of life. The turbine will only become carbon negative in the final 9 years of its, average, 25 year life span. I too can spin.
Point three. Of this final point I can be utterly certain. How so? It is the note at the bottom of my gas bill that reads “Carbon Tax” levied at over 7% (on which I pay another 13.5% – double taxation) which goes to pay the subsidies on green energy, plus the Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy which I pay on my electricity bill. Airtricity kindly put a little explanatory note “The PSO levy is a charge relating to the costs of purchasing peat generated electricity and the output of renewable, sustainable or alternative forms of energy purchased under various government schemes…” For various government schemes read wind energy subsidies.
I shall be asking the Irish Times to print a correction of the article in their next edition – don’t hold your breath!