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Complete policy failure: Irish energy costs and emissions up in 2021

How do you define complete policy failure? Well, let’s start with this:

Emissions from Irish power-generation and industrial companies increased by 15 per cent in 2021, according to preliminary analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This compares with an increase of about 9.1 per cent across Europe.

The increase in emissions amounted to 2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent and was largely due to increased carbon intensity of Ireland’s electricity production last year.

The increase provides further evidence of how difficult it will be to halve Irish emissions by 2030 as committed to in the Government’s national climate action plan.

“Several factors came together to compound this – a decrease in wind power availability, some relatively modern gas-fired plants being offline and an increase in electricity demand,” the EPA concluded. Older plants, including the coal-fired power station at Moneypoint, Co Clare, had to be used to ensure sufficient power was available.

Ireland’s energy policy, to the extent that we have one, is simple enough: Eliminate Carbon emissions over time by moving from dirty fossil fuel electricity to clean wind and solar electricity. That is the policy: Costs are merely a byproduct of the policy.

In other words, the success or failure of Irish energy policy should not be judged on how much energy costs, because that is not what the policy sets out to do. If Ireland wanted a cheap energy policy, it would do things differently – it would prioritise the Shannon LNG pipeline from the United States, for example, rather than, as the Government wants, to stop it altogether.

The success of the policy should also not be judged on how secure our supply of energy is. That is a secondary priority: After all, we have closed down three power plants over the past three years, in pursuit of a clean energy policy.

These are important things to understand: Ireland does not want cheap energy, and it does not want plentiful energy. It wants clean energy with no emissions.

And yet, our overall emissions from energy increased by 15% last year – almost double the European Average, while prices went up and supply went down.

On all three metrics on which you might judge energy policy, then – cost, supply, and emissions – Ireland went backwards. There are no redeeming parts to this story.

And the reason for that is not hard to divine. Our energy policy is doomed to failure because it is being pulled in three different directions at once, by Government policy.

On the one hand, Ireland’s economic and industrial strategy needs lots of energy – quantity matters. On the other hand, Ireland’s political parties need relatively cheap energy – voters do not like big bills. And on the third, green, hand, Ireland’s elites desperately want zero carbon energy – which means less energy, with massive upfront costs, and higher taxes on existing power sources to make the whole thing economically viable.

The result, unsurprisingly, is this: Wind energy is very vulnerable to a year like 2021 with lower than average winds. In turn this means the ramping up of our remaining gas plants, at a time when gas is very expensive. The result is less power, produced more expensively, and producing more emissions.

This is complete policy failure, in other words. Nothing is being accomplished on the Irish energy front except reduced supply, higher costs, and no progress at all on emissions.

But there will be no course adjustment, or reversal. The energy policy Ireland has adopted has universal support: The media are ideologically convinced of the green argument, which means the politicians do not feel safe to dissent. And the Green energy industry is so well funded with taxpayer money at this stage that they have become a political lobby of immense power by themselves. To reverse course on windmills, for example, would make a lot of rich people less rich.

All of this, it must be remembered, is to accomplish a total reduction in global CO2 emissions so small – and over a period so long – as to be a fraction of a fraction of one per cent, which is meaningless in the global climate context.

It is hard to say who is being served by this policy. Because it is not the planet – emissions are up, remember. It is not the consumer – prices are up. And it is not our economy, because supply is down.

There is, however, quite a lot of money being made to produce and install smartmeters and windmills.

So, well, at least somebody is winning.

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