Time to take back control

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Network issues dominated this year's Irish Wind Energy Conference, which attracted some 200 people and 14 exhibitors to Sligo on April 21-22. With a new grid code for wind awaiting approval by the energy regulator and a moratorium on new wind plant connections to the grid still in force, it was an obvious focus.

The Irish Wind Energy Association maintained that the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and ESB National Grid continue to develop the energy market while ignoring the needs of renewables. Environmentalist and TV producer Duncan Stewart criticised the ESB's monopoly on electricity supply and the wires. He called on the government to take back control of energy policy from ESB.

"It is too important to our economy," he said. Energy supply should be a major political issue he argued, pointing out that Ireland is dependent on imports for 90% of its fuel, and 98% of its electricity is from fossil fuels, with just 2% from renewables.

Ireland is set to miss its Kyoto targets by a large margin, he added. Its allowance under Kyoto is a 13% increase in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2010; today's emissions of greenhouse gases stand at 35% above 1990 levels. Huge penalties for failure to comply with Kyoto, security of supply worries, and over reliance on imported fuels are compelling reasons to forge ahead with wind, he said.

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