No wind farms granted planning permission anywhere in State last year, climate conference hears

Slow pace of deployment of renewable-energy projects poses chief risk to State’s climate objectives, warns energy economist Lisa Ryan

Planning uncertainty posed potentially the greatest risk to Ireland’s climate transition, with not a single wind farm granted planning permission anywhere in the State last year, a high-level conference on climate was told on Thursday.

Energy economist Lisa Ryan told the event hosted by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) that the electrification of heat and transport would be undermined if the State’s electricity system – the national grid – was not decarbonised in tandem.

She warned that the slow pace of deployment of renewable-energy projects – illustrated by the fact that no wind farm project was granted planning in 2023 – meant the State would struggle to meet its renewable-energy targets.

“You can switch to EVs [electric vehicles], you can switch to heat pumps but if you can’t decarbonise your electricity system then unfortunately the whole plan is not there,” Prof Ryan said.


The UCD academic said she was “becoming very concerned” that the State’s shift to a decarbonised electricity system would be frustrated by planning delays and planning uncertainty.

Until now it has taken about 60 weeks for wind farm projects to successfully navigate the planning process, and while an overhaul of the system via the Government’s Planning and Development Bill is under way, Prof Ryan queried whether enough resources would be deployed to sufficiently reduce these extended planning times.

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The Government’s Climate Action Plan sets down a target of having 80 per cent of energy generated from renewables by 2030 while phasing out coal and peat-fired electricity generation.

Conall Mac Coille, chief economist at Bank of Ireland, told the event that while there was significant private-sector money for climate projects, “planning, access to the grid and the credibility of Government policy” remained key risk factors for investors.

He said the results of recent green-energy auction programmes had been disappointing, reflecting the difficulties faced by investors in these projects.

Mr Mac Coille noted that several companies had “paid termination fees” to get out of projects which were presumably no longer viable for reasons to do with costs and/or planning.

Looking at the various Government targets, including having 800,000 EVs on Irish roads by 2030, he said “climate change should be a results business and we are far from these targets”.

Marie Donnelly, chair of the State’s Climate Change Advisory Council, said that some local politicians were getting elected by opposing renewable-energy projects and these battles were being amplified by negative headlines in the media.

Earlier, Ifac’s Eddie Casey and Killian Carroll reiterated the findings of a report published last year which estimated that Government tax revenues could fall by as much as €2.5 billion a year by 2030 as a result of lower taxes from fuel and energy use amid the switch to renewables and EVs.

Grants for retrofitting, assisting agricultural transition and other supports could lead to additional Government spending of between €1.6 billion and €3 billion a year from 2026 to 2030, their analysis estimated.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times