paper for the Robert John Kane Symposium


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Some advice on sustainable energy opportunities and measures to accelerate development in Ireland

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paper for the Robert John Kane Symposium

  1. 1. Roinnt comhairle (Some advice) <br />on sustainable energy opportunities<br />and measures to accelerate development<br />Willem de Kleijn<br />Sustainable energy advisor with the Province of Zuid Holland, The Netherlands<br />The author/presenter received editorial support from Brid Walsh (Ph.D) of 2Bwriting. Email: Website: <br />Table of contents<br /> TOC o "1-3" h z u 1Introduction PAGEREF _Toc291083185 h 4<br />2.Economic situation in Ireland PAGEREF _Toc291083186 h 4<br />3.(Economic) opportunities in renewable energy? PAGEREF _Toc291083187 h 4<br />4.Measures to accelerate an energy transition PAGEREF _Toc291083188 h 6<br />Ad 1Capital cost PAGEREF _Toc291083189 h 6<br />Ad 2Sense of urgency PAGEREF _Toc291083190 h 7<br />Ad 3Support PAGEREF _Toc291083191 h 7<br />Ad 4.(Too many) laws, rules, processes and structures PAGEREF _Toc291083192 h 9<br />Ad 5.Overlapping policies/categories in planning schedules PAGEREF _Toc291083193 h 9<br />Ad 6.Power struggle between the different administrations PAGEREF _Toc291083194 h 10<br />5.Need for a National Energy Planning Body? PAGEREF _Toc291083195 h 11<br />References PAGEREF _Toc291083196 h 12<br />Appendix one PAGEREF _Toc291083197 h 13<br />1Introduction<br />I am honoured to exchange views and experiences relating to energy planning in Ireland, with a view to increasing sustainability. I apologise in advance if there are inaccuracies in my paper as it is based on desk research.<br />2.Economic situation in Ireland<br />The economic situation in Ireland is exceedingly challenging. Ireland entered into a recession in 2008 for the first time in more than a decade, with the subsequent collapse of its domestic property and construction markets. The export sector, dominated by foreign multinationals, has become a key component of Ireland's economy. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services and exacerbated by a declining rural population. There is a downturn in consumer spending and business investment. The unemployment rate in Ireland was last reported at 14.6 percent in February of 2011 (Euro area 9.9%). Recent net-outward migration from Ireland has topped all records since 1989. Indeed, it is estimated that almost 5,000 Irish emigrate from Ireland to Australia, Canada, the United States and the U.K every month. Ireland is currently experiencing a ‘brain drain’ as young people, in particular, continue to leave Ireland.<br />3.(Economic) opportunities in renewable energy?<br />Ireland is bound by European agreements on CO2 reduction and goals on sustainable energy. Potential for fossil fuel and renewable energy exploitation in Ireland is substantial. In terms of fossil-fuels Ireland is host to: (a) offshore basins containing gas and oil, and (b) large areas of limestone onshore. Large shale gas stocks are associated with such limestone areas. With the advent of new seismic technology and efficient directional drilling techniques, it is now possible to produce shale gas from such areas.There are also significant opportunities in the field of renewable energy:<br /><ul><li>Wind energy: Ireland, both on shore and offshore, has one of the best wind regimes in Europe (see Figure 1);
  2. 2. Geothermal energy: large areas of Ireland consist of limestone which can (generally) be easily drilled (see Figure 2 – blue shading denotes limestone);
  3. 3. Bio-mass, bio-fuel and bio-gas: sourced from the agricultural, forest and peat (although discussions about CO2 reduction) sectors;
  4. 4. Hydro-electricity: harnessing power from lakes, rivers e.g. pumped storage hydroelectricity and traditional hydroelectricity using dams;
  5. 5. Marine-energy: harnessing wave , tidal, ocean, and osmotic energy;
  6. 6. Solar power: the south-east of Ireland, in particular, is imminently suitable. </li></ul>One of the greatest challenges in the near future is the storage of (renewable) energy (in view of peak demand). To expand it’s renewable portfolio, Ireland must implement storage technologies and up-grade the grid system to absorb increased quantities of renewable energy and to ensure that Ireland can trade electricity more readily with Europe. Ireland has great potential in this regard, as it is possible to:<br /><ul><li>Fill used gas-fields with imported gas;
  7. 7. Utilise mines which are no longer in production ( water is pumped into the mine when electricity prices are high and pumped out when electricity prices are lower);
  8. 8. Artificial lakes (same method as before).</li></ul>A study by Buck Consultants, a Dutch economic consultancy, indicates that global employment in the renewable energy sector is expected to grow by 2.2% to 9.5% per year in the period to 2030. Concurrently, employment in traditional energy sectors is expected to decline by 1% to 2.7% per year. In summary, Ireland has all the ingredients for an energy transition with potential to become one of the larger energy-hubs in Western Europe, with associated economic benefits and job creation opportunities. Quick wins are wind energy and co-firing of biomass in coal plants; however, for the middle-long term Ireland must reach further and expand its commitment beyond wind energy and biomass to include other forms of renewable energy including, marine energy, geothermal and solar energy.<br /> Figure 1: Wind resource in EuropeFigure 2: Geology of Ireland <br />4.Measures to accelerate an energy transition<br />Before discussing measures that will facilitate an energy transition, it is first useful to examine some of the factors that have led to slow development of renewable energy in Ireland. <br />Causes of slow development<br /><ul><li>Capital cost;
  9. 9. Lack of sense of urgency;
  10. 10. Lack of support;
  11. 11. (Too many) laws, rules, processes and structures;
  12. 12. Overlapping policies and regional categories in the planning schedules;
  13. 13. Power struggle for control between the different administrations.</li></ul>Note: The following proposed measures are not exhaustive.<br />Ad 1Capital cost<br />There is a continuing debate regarding the costs of renewable energy vis á vis conventional fossil fuel generated energy. In discussing wind energy (currently the cheapest form of renewable energy), social costs must also be taken into account. Social costs are not included in citizens’ electricity bills and include air pollution, waste, climate change, public health, oil pollution at sea, and accidents in the mining and the use of scarce resources. The European commission recently estimated the various social costs associated with energy generation. The social costs of coal are estimated at 3-4 € ct/kWh; gas 1-2 € ct/kWh; nuclear power 0.2 - 0.5 € ct / kWh, and wind energy 0.1 € ct/kWh (European Commission, 2003).Thus when social costs are integrated with electricity price, it is clear that onshore wind energy is already competitive with its conventional counter-parts. Many forms of renewable energy are; however, characterised by long payback periods reflected in the (investment or business profits) taxes.<br />One of the reasons why renewable energy is such a success in Germany and Denmark, is the feed-in tariff system that both countries have deployed to boost renewable implementation. It provides a long-term, fixed payment for each kilowatt of sustainably generated electricity fed onto the grid. In Germany all energy users pay a small surcharge on their electricity tariff. This surcharge is fed into a fund utilised to support green energy through its feed-in tariff. Price of renewable energy is determined by cost of generation, thus each form of renewable energy is priced accordingly. This scheme is not a subsidy and does not place pressure on the state budget. There is significant criticism that the system would dampen innovation. Innovation; however, can be successfully stimulated through reduced tax or grants.<br />A new law is being prepared in the Netherlands entitled the SDE+ (renewable energy subsidy scheme). This scheme will address various flaws associated with previous schemes. It will to be financed through a surcharge on energy bills paid by citizens and businesses, and (possibly) partially through a coal and gas tax.<br />Ireland utilises a Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff (REFIT) scheme which provides a guaranteed reference price for renewable energy for suppliers with an additional payment of 15 % of the reference price. REFIT is often criticised for its complicated nature and administrative bureaucracies. Additionally, suppliers also have to handle all sale and dispatch administration with the grid operator.<br />Advice:<br /><ul><li>Evaluate the REFIT in view of the German system.
  14. 14. Consider a coal and gas tax to fund the growth of REFIT.</li></ul>Ad 2Sense of urgency<br />In 2006 the European Council found that European energy use faces a number of challenges:<br /><ul><li>Finite nature of oil and gas;
  15. 15. Increasing dependence of imports;
  16. 16. Limited diversification;
  17. 17. High and volatile energy prices;
  18. 18. Growing global energy demand;
  19. 19. Security risks that have an impact on the countries of production and transit as well as transport;
  20. 20. Growing threat of climate change;
  21. 21. Slow progress in energy efficiency and renewable energy;
  22. 22. Need for increased transparency on energy markets;
  23. 23. Further integration and interconnection of national energy in the light of the almost completed liberalisation in energy (July 2007);
  24. 24. Limited coordination between energy players while large investment in energy infrastructure are required.</li></ul>These arguments are still valid in 2011! <br />Ireland has a high binding target for renewable energy (established by EU Directive 28/2009/EC): 16% of renewable energy in gross final consumption of energy by 2020. Ireland is currently on track to meet the EU 2020 target and is striving to meet its own 40% target by 2020. However, the economic situation in Ireland and the potential conflict of fossil energy versus renewable energy are a potential risk, especially as large fossil companies have great power. Another finding is that renewable energy has significant potential to induce innovation, as compared with fossil energy. <br />Advice:<br /><ul><li>Discuss and formulate covenants with large (fossil) energy producers and suppliers to agree on targets for renewable energy.
  25. 25. Discuss and formulate agreements with Irish business organisations. </li></ul>Ad 3Support<br />A survey conducted by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (2003) entitled ‘Attitudes towards the development of wind farms in Ireland’ found that approximately 84% of Irish citizens surveyed perceive wind energy in a positive light (SEAI, 2003). However, when asked ‘how favourable are you to having a wind farm built in your local area’, this percentage drops to 67%. Accordingly, there appears to be a shift in support when a wind farm is planning for their local area – a NIMBY-effect. <br />Most encouragingly, over 60% of those living in close proximity to existing wind farms would favour either an additional wind farm in the area or an extension to existing projects. Fewer than 20% state they would be opposed a further wind farm development; however, 7% express themselves to be strongly opposed. It is imperative that developers and planners recognize and address the concerns of those demonstrating worries over sustained wind energy development. Often, it is not that people are opposed to wind energy - per se - rather that they wish to maintain the status quo of their locality and, prefer to see the development taking place elsewhere, or indeed that local citizens feel excluded from project development. A survey of attitudes has also been undertaken in The Netherlands (Smart Agent Company, 2008). Indeed, attitudes to onshore wind energy in Ireland appear more positive than in the Netherlands. The results of this survey are summarised in Table 1. <br />Table 1: Support for wind energy development in the Netherlands<br />Level of support of onshore wind energy developmentCoded segmentPercentageSupporterTOP-segment23%Moderate-positive with some reservationsOKAY-segment30%Relatively few thoughts with some reservationsOH-segment34%Strong opponentNO-segment13%<br />An effective strategy to gain more support should focus on segments where 'profit' can be achieved. The study found that the OKAY and OH segments showed the most promise in this regard. Various other studies undertaken in The Netherlands have also indicated that a certain percentage, most usually 10-20%, will always be opposed to wind energy projects. <br />Wind turbines transform environments and have strong visual impacts. Residents in close proximity to a proposed wind farm often receive insufficient or incorrect information regarding the usefulness and necessity of wind energy and the effects of wind turbines on the environment and landscapes. Meaningful involvement of local citizens and effective, open communication are crucial to secure and strengthen local acceptance of wind energy development. Such engagement can impact on whether project proposals are accepted or opposed at local level. (For suggestions re: local engagement, see Appendix 1).There is a trend towards increased citizen financial participation in wind energy development in the Netherlands. Financial participation can created through various forms of financing, such as participation in a cooperative or investing in bonds. For example, local citizens may participate in a manner where they take risks and gain control i.e. investing, or citizens may participate with little associated risks and little control i.e. payment of a portion of citizens’ electricity bills or a community fund. <br />In the Netherlands farmers and other businesses often use the first form. Non-controlling participation is a recent phenomena and is largely focused on citizens in areas in close proximity to wind farm developments. Such forms of financial participation are characterised by a large number of small holdings, with participants holding no risk or very little risk. Financial participation can be undertaken both before and after construction. Risk, but also gain, is greater when stakeholders participate financially during project planning, and prior to award of permits. Risk is limited to the proceeds of wind energy, electricity price and emergency maintenance. Also see: (Google can translate the site).<br />Local renewable energy companies/corporations also offer a very promising form of participation as the firms' profits are returned to the community (see for an example of a small scale, local energy company). <br />The Dutch experience is that great changes occurred after (health or water) disasters. Whether Ireland will view the economic situation as a disaster, is of course the question.<br />Advice:<br /><ul><li>Use all the media, national and local, to promote renewable energy with a focus on RE as a new economic opportunity for Ireland.</li></ul>Ad 4.(Too many) laws, rules, processes and structures<br />It is difficult for me to offer advice in this area due to my lack of detailed knowledge about Irish laws, policies and regulations in the area of energy planning and development in Ireland. <br />In the Netherlands this issue is not a serious problem. The Dutch government enacted the “Crisis and Recovery Act” in 2010. The essence of this law is that new and/or adapted procedures are put in place to promote growth and sustainability. For projects over 5WM, developers may approach the Provincial authorities in instances where municipalities have refused to develop a plan for renewable energy. If the Provincial authorities deem it suitable, they may over-rule the municipalities and draft a plan. The Act accelerates procedures for large projects while maintaining the necessary safeguards for careful decision-making. It also aids the preservation of employment and promotes enhanced durability, accessibility and economic growth. <br />Advice:<br /><ul><li>Consider whether such a law is applicable in the Irish case.</li></ul>Ad 5.Overlapping policies/categories in planning schedules<br />Various policy categories are present within planning, and in the balance of interests, closely related categories (e.g. landscape, nature and cultural heritage) take precedence, and is often to the disadvantage of renewables. <br />A middle-, long-term solution could include the pioneering Australian “Taralga” approach, which provides wind farms with a “presumption of priority”. Combating climate change through renewable energy would transcend (in many cases) local interests such as landscape and/or nature. Adaptation of EU policy is required for to adapt such an approach. <br />Advice:<br /><ul><li>Consider whether the National Development Plan and the National Spatial Strategy for Ireland 2002-2020 can be adjusted in this direction i.e. higher priority afforded to renewable energy
  26. 26. It may be advisable to label priority projects “of national importance” which prevail over local interests. However, in doing so it is absolutely imperative that local stakeholders, interest groups etc. in close proximity to priority project areas are meaningfully engaged early in the process to ensure that local interests are represented in the planning of priority projects.</li></ul>Ad 6.Power struggle between the different administrations<br />Power struggle between the different administrations can arise from ambiguities or imperfections in the planning system. For instance:<br /><ul><li>Local politicians, elected by their own population, want control over their own territory, and make decisions with local interests at heart (see Ad 5.).
  27. 27. The planning system, both sectoral planning and integrated planning, may be coarse and not concrete.</li></ul>With regard to the planning system I came, with all respect, to the following findings:<br />There is – in the domain of mitigation – much policy and too few concrete programs and projects. The planning system is, regarding mitigation, not sufficiently development oriented (i.e. “planning permission”).<br />Solutions are:<br /><ul><li>Agree on regional targets
  28. 28. The Netherlands signed the BLOW-agreement in 2001. Under this agreement each province was allocated a common but differentiated wind energy target in Megawatts (MW). Some provinces have had success, others have not performed very well - sometimes not willfully.
  29. 29. In Germany the national government has set per “Kreise” (municipality) a number of MW's. The “Kreise” were then required to formulate a spatial plan to achieve this target, thus they had a certain freedom to choose where they want to allcoate energy capacity. If the Kreise did not formulate a plan within a year, the national government stepped in and devised a plan for them. This method has worked well in the German case.
  30. 30. Improve regional planning, both sectoral and integrated.</li></ul>To regionalise energy planning, my advice is to create regional energy visions imbued with the Trias Energetica philosophy, in conjunction with binding regional RE targets – extending beyond wind energy to include a wide range of renewable options. The model consists of the following three elements:<br /><ul><li>Reduce energy demand by avoiding waste and by implementing energy-saving measures
  31. 31. Maximise deployment of sustainable energy, for example wind, wave, geothermic and solar energy
  32. 32. Produce and use fossil fuel energy as efficiently as possible and only in contexts where it is not possible to use energy generated from sustainable resources</li></ul>Regional energy visions must be integrated with regional spatial planning and are imperative for coherent energy planning and also provide a strong platform from which to plan re-powering efforts of RE systems. <br />Advice:<br /><ul><li>Create regional energy visions in which the philosophy of the Trias Energetica is implemented and integrated with regional spatial planning.</li></ul>5.Need for a National Energy Planning Body?<br />On the basis of the foregoing conclusions and recommendations, the answer to the question – Does Ireland need a National Energy Planning Body? - is 80% yes! Ireland, given the national economic situation and ample opportunities for renewable energy, certainly needs greater national coordination and would benefit significantly from such a national body. A national planning bureau would be of great help in terms of regional planning, for instance organising re-powering efforts of “wind parks” in the future.<br />My 20% hesitation is related to the other previously described solutions and advice, for example, the need to deploy energy storage technologies and broaden Ireland’s renewable energy portfolio to include various forms of renewable energy, such as increased solar, wave, geothermal energy and biomass. <br />Stakeholder participation, both in a decision-making and financial capacity, should be considered a requirement within the context of a National Energy Planning Body. It is imperative that local stakeholders and other stakeholders (such as interest groups) are meaningfully engaged during both policy-making and wind energy project development. Perhaps collaborative efforts in formulating regional energy visions would be beneficial in this regard. <br />Further in this vein of participation, I am also charmed by local renewable energy companies or corporations, where people and governments can own shares. Energy must no longer be seen as an abstract concept, we must find ways to bring it back to local level and bring locals along with us. This is especially relevant in light of creating a National Energy Planning Bureau, it is imperative that such a top-down approach is complimented by meaningful collaborative stakeholder engagement. <br />References<br />European Commission (2003) External Costs; Research results on socio-environmental damages due to electricity and transport, European Commission, 2003 (EUR 20198)<br />Available at:<br />SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) (2003) Attitudes towards the development of wind farms in Ireland, (Cork: Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland).<br />Smart Agent Company (2008) Het Vergroten van betrokkenheid bij windenergie. Available at:<br />Appendix one<br />Local acceptance of wind energy development may be enhanced through various actions: <br />1. Provision of early, robust, information <br />Early, transparent communication is essential to ensure that local stakeholders are accurately informed. Knowledgeable people are generally positive towards wind power. They can be local ambassadors. Lack of information about wind energy (in general and in relation to specific projects) often leads to suspicion and resistance.<br />2. Participation<br />Meaningful, early, involvement of local citizens in a wind energy project is likely to significantly bolster local support. This can be achieved through various measures including: (a) provision of green power to local citizens living in close proximity to wind energy projects, and (b) local citizen financial participation in wind energy projects through investment with associated returns, for example. Projects in which citizens participate actively in this manner can expect increased local support.<br />Local citizens should be engaged early and as fully fledged partners. It is not always necessary that local citizens also have a casting vote. Municipalities remain responsible for formulating and implementing environmental policy. Both policy and individual projects benefit from integrating local knowledge in their plans. 3. Keep communicating<br /> It is imperative that measures are taken to ensure that local communities are kept informed in the operational phase of wind energy projects. For example, local citizens may be keen to learn how much electricity the turbines produce, or why the turbines are not turning even though it is windy. Such information can be provided in a transparent manner through a regularly updated website, local newspapers and through organising excursions to wind farms. <br />