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    Red light for windfarms 'means higher bills'


    September 26, 2023 - By Aisling Moloney

     

      NO windfarms have received planning permission in a year, and energy bills will be 'higher for longer' as a result, experts have warned.

      It has been more than a year since An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for a windfarm, despite looming 2030 targets to generate renewable energy.

      Noel Cunniffe, chief executive of Wind Energy Ireland, has said that the average waiting time for a decision on a wind energy project is now more than 90 weeks, with 2,000 megawatts of projects currently stuck in the planning system.

      He said this will have the effect of 'keeping energy prices higher for longer in Ireland' as we fail to switch to cheaper, cleaner energy and continue to spend €1million an hour importing fossil fuels to provide for our needs.

      'The more domestic indigenous renewables we have, the cheaper everyone's electricity will be,' commented Mr Cunniffe.

      He added: 'It's gas, coal and oil that has driven the energy price crisis that we're in. It's well proven that on the days you have more wind and solar energy generation, electricity prices at the wholesale level are lower.'

      Ireland currently has 5,000 megawatts of onshore wind power, but the Government set itself a legally binding target of 9,000 megawatts by 2030.

      However, if the current delays in the planning system continue, Mr Cunniffe said we are likely to be 3,000 megawatts short of that target, opening the Government up to potential legal challenges.

      Eirgrid will today publish provisional results of the third auction for the Renewable Energy Support Scheme. This involves onshore wind and solar projects that have full planning permission, and a grid connection offer, and are looking to win the contract to provide electricity at a guaranteed price for 16.5 years.

      This is only the third auction to take place since 2020 - and Mr Cunniffe said the results being published are expected to be the lowest so far due to delays in the planning process.

      He said there are more than 40 wind energy projects in the planning system - the majority of which are on the desk of An Bord Pleanála - but some are being assessed by local authorities.

      'We have been asking for a long time now for more resources in An Bord Pleanala and the local authorities so they can make these decisions,' he said.

      'We're not asking for projects to be looked on more favourably - these applications need to be really robustly assessed - we're just asking for decisions to be made faster.'

      Mr Cunniffe added that 'if we keep the lack of pace in planning decisions, we're going to fail in our [renewable energy] targets', due by 2030.

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