Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action
Examination of the Third Report of the Citizens' Assembly (Resumed)
We got around it because those who campaigned against onshore wind made a great fuss about saying that we should have wind offshore. We said yes to that. It was what they wanted and so we did it. I faced a lot of opposition to onshore wind in my own constituency. People there did not want onshore wind energy production but rather offshore. The energy there is now being supplied by offshore, in very big quantities. They are now complaining about the fact that because the energy is offshore, it has to be brought onshore, and so something must be built to put the electricity into. This is not an easy game. We simply have to get over the problem. Onshore wind energy is now the cheapest means of electricity production available, and governments have to be frank with people. They should say that, without windmills, electricity will be more expensive and that bills will be higher. It is surprising how people begin to change once that is done.
Another thing which could be done, which Britain did not do but which Ireland should do, is to ensure that the locality with the windmills gets some of the advantages so that it is worthwhile. The Germans have been very successful with this approach. Some 50% of their wind energy is owned by local communities and co-operatives. If there are three windmills on a local hill, a person there knows that his or her electricity is significantly cheaper than normal, if not free. He or she is getting cheaper electricity in exchange for providing the opportunity to generate electricity to the community.
It is important to remember that once the windmills are in place, people who did not like them before change their minds, which is surprising. I live in the countryside, but up the road from me is the little town of Eye. It is a very small, historic town, and there are three windmills there. The people there hated them. They were so angry about them, and planning permission was very difficult to achieve. Now they are part of the scenery. We recently had a wonderful local rendition of a ballet at three locations in the town, the third of which was out on the sward, in order that the windmills would be in the background as the sun went down. They are now seen as something quite different. Ireland should not forget that aspect.