Saying “I told you so” is a rather unpleasant trait in a person, but there are times when it cannot be avoided. Last week, on these pages, I wrote that:
the Government can live with electricity blackouts if they only affect the hapless citizenry. Such blackouts can be blamed on other factors: Maintenance. The need to invest in the network. People not using energy efficiently. All of those things are ripe for patient lectures on Prime Time from our political class: They would happily, and delightfully, gaslight you into believing that poor supply, and higher prices, were actually your fault, and not theirs.
On cue, here is Minister Ryan, speaking this week:
“It’s a very tight situation for the next two, three, four years, while we build up some battery and gas-fired back-up systems,” the minister said.
“No one is exempt from the need to meet our climate targets and provide energy security. We won’t see projects going ahead if they don’t have that capability to fit into a low carbon energy-secure system.”
It’s a very tight supply issue, but we have a path, we know what we need to do. It’s both managing demand and supply. There has to be regulation of demand. The main approach is developing our renewable power supplies.”
This morning, Eirgrid confirms that there will be critical shortages of power, not just this winter, but in winters to come. It lays the blame, relatively artfully, at the idea that Ireland is in a “transition phase”. This is a nice way of saying that we are transitioning from reliable sources of electricity, to unreliable sources of electricity.
The bottom line is this: Minister Ryan and his fellow true believers are convinced that the planet can only be saved if we use less energy. The easiest way to use less energy is to produce less of it, at a higher cost, making energy expensive, and thus preventing you from using it.
Politicians are often accused by conspiracy theorists of manufacturing a crisis. In this case, the charge is 100% accurate. The fact that “things are going to be tight” for three or four years is a direct result of Government policy. And, what is more, it was always intended to be the result of Government policy.
The Greens and their partners in Government have overloaded the Irish energy grid with windmills. There are two problems with windmills: When the wind blows strongly, they produce more energy that can be used. When it stops blowing, they leave a shortfall. This places immense strain on conventional power plants, which are required to scale up, and scale down, like a yo-yo, dramatically shortening their life spans and increasing their maintenance costs.
In addition, the Government has deliberately closed power plants which run on fossil fuels. It has banned the extraction of Irish peat, while importing expensive peat from overseas. It has placed carbon taxes on fuels. It has, in short, done everything in its power to reduce the availability of cheap energy.
Now, in the face of a crisis in the energy sector, it will seek to blame others.
The first target is so-called “data centres”. These are being blamed for consuming too much electricity. In recent days, politicians – including opposition politicians, who backed the Government all the way on their strategy – have only just stopped short of accusing data centres of being dirty foreigners coming in here and using all our electricity.
1. At a time when data centre proliferation threatens the security of our electricity supply, the Finance Minister can't clarify the total value of tax reliefs that have been gifted to companies through capital allowances claimed against their data centre investment…
— Pearse Doherty (@PearseDoherty) September 28, 2021
But intelligent voters will notice, if they think about it for a moment, that these data centres have been around for years, and never posed us a problem before. The issue is not demand. The issue is supply.
The closure of two power plants this year has reduced supply by something in the margin of the power needed to keep the lights on in a quarter of a million homes. That means, simply, that there is less electricity available than there was.
Now, rather than take the blame for it, the Government – with, it must be said, the willing connivance of most of the media – is preparing to set consumers against employers and investors, and trying to get you, the ordinary person, to blame somebody else for the Government’s mistakes.
They have an advantage in this strategy because so many people are invested in being right. Ireland has no opposition party which can say “I told you so” because all of them backed the Government strategy. So too did all of the newspapers. And the broadcasters. If the Government got it wrong, then so did the entire Irish political and media axis, yet again.
But it is not the fault of consumers, or of data centres. Everyone in this country has been going about their business as normal, using a normal amount of electricity. There has not been some massive surge in demand in 2021. If you believe that there has been, then you have believed a lie.
The truth is that the Government caused this problem, and intend fully to continue causing it, in the name of saving the planet. They do not actually have any hope of saving the planet, by the by, but that’s the idea.
Soon, the Greens and the Government will arrive at the conclusion that the demand for energy must be regulated. It will start, probably, subtly enough, with higher premiums on consumption over a certain level, and things like that. It will not end there. It never does.