No ill wind if energy plants operate in your neighbourhood

Cantillon: Scheme clear we will all pay €6m to benefit those living near wind farms

Wind farms: The community charge, €2-a-mega watt hour (MWh) of electricity, adds up to €6 million – a lot of money. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

Wind farms: The community charge, €2-a-mega watt hour (MWh) of electricity, adds up to €6 million – a lot of money. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

 

The Government announcement on Monday about a new Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS) was light on detail. However, one stood out amid the few that it did contain: it will create a €6 million fund for “communities living in close proximity” to wind farms, solar energy plants and whatever other projects benefit from the new system.

It is more than likely the industry will pass the €6 million cost to all customers. So every family and employer in the Republic will pay for something used to benefit a relative small number of people living “in close proximity” to renewable energy projects.

RESS is meant to support the construction of wind and solar farms to help the Republic reach its target of meeting 70 per cent of all electricity needs from renewable sources by 2030. It will replace the renewable feed-in tariff (Refit) scheme that is no longer available for new projects, but which continues to support most existing wind farms.

Public service charge

As with Refit, homes and businesses will pay for the new support scheme through the public service charge on their electricity bills, which is now €2.84 a month for a household and €10.35 a month for small businesses.

The community charge, €2-a-mega watt hour (MWh) of electricity, is likely to be part of this. You could argue that it is not much, but it adds up to €6 million, which is a lot of money.

Equally, RESS promises to be cheaper than Refit. Nevertheless, homes and businesses will still be paying extra to support the scheme.

Many wind farm owners already have schemes through which they donate cash to sports and other organisations close to their operations. Cynics would dismiss these as a way of countering local planning objections. The companies themselves say they are being good corporate citizens.

Either way, the new scheme looks like it will formalise this practice, while landing the bill on the Republic’s families and employers, who will see no benefit from their €6 million unless they happen to be “proximate” to a wind farm.

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