Transparency in public energy policy

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Slí Eile asserts that the culture of secrecy is alive and well in policy making in Ireland. Here’s the full essay.

The rest of this post is about a related topic, and the about an irregular commentator to this blog: Pat Swords.

Once upon a time, Pat asked the relevant authorities in Ireland for the benefit-cost analysis that underpins the public investment in wind power in Ireland. This is a perfectly reasonable request, as the public investment is substantial. There are three sources of money: tax revenue, reinvestment of profits by state-owned companies (which could have been paid in dividend to the owners aka the tax payer), and public services obligations (i.e., levies on electricity that are not quite taxes but feel the same way).

Pat’s request was refused, and so started a protracted legal battle, involving the Department of Energy, various other government bodies in Ireland, DG Environment, the European Ombudsperson, and the UN Economic Commission for Europe. There are a number of complications. Pat asked for information that probably should exist but as far as I know does not. Pat requested information under the Aarhus Convention, a UN treaty that was not ratified by Ireland. However, it was ratified by the EU, and Ireland has transposed the corresponding directive. Ireland’s renewable target is similarly derived from EU targets, the justification and even documentation of which leaves much to be desired. Europe part-funded some of the infrastructure that underpins the expansion of renewables. And there are other parts of the Acquis that may pertain to this case.

I’m no lawyer so I will not opine on the likely outcome of the case. I would have used less abrasive language than Pat is wont to. I agree with Pat that the renewables targets are expensive. I fail to understand that there are any benefits from having such a target. I am aware of the long list of wonderful things that are claimed to be benefits of renewable energy. I do not think any of them stacks up.

Most importantly, I think that a democratic government should be open and transparent, and be able to explain how and why it spends our taxes or implements costly regulation. There is often a good reason, or matters may be beyond our control.

If Pat wins this case, the ramifications could be widespread. Renewable energy is surely not the only area in which the Irish government has made dodgy and badly documented decisions. The Aarhus convention only applies, however, to policies that touch the environment.

Here’s the full story. It’s long, complicated, and occasionally intemperate.

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45 Responses to “Transparency in public energy policy”

  1. David O'Donnell Says:

    ‘full essay’ link needs attention. D.

  2. David O'Donnell Says:

    All essays available here:

    http://www.tascnet.ie/showPage.php?ID=3128

  3. Richard Tol Says:

    Thanks, David. Link fixed.

  4. Georg Baumann Says:

    I had first hand experience with the new/old “Gold Diggers” of wind energy, their political connections, the threats made to members of the public by developers, bribes that were offered to sign papers, pretentious experts that were hired to blind the public with a touch of seniority but failed to answer critical questions, highly questionable conduct in business practices, people appearing on private land pretending to be some sort of a fire inspector checking the land for the council, in reality it turned out they were developers, the phletora of businesses that all of the sudden opened, many of them in the same name and with the same business purpose, often directly connected by vested interests to the architecture firms that produce the applications, that and so many more strange flowers that emerged after the Green Party pushed the agenda.

    Personally, I think that all these things have to be judged on their own merit, but the policies that could be observed on a per application basis in county councils should be enough reason for serious concern. Environmental Impact studies were copied and pasted, word by word, on more than one occasion, as a matter of fact on most occasions.

    it is not only the culture of secrecy that is well and alive, not only secrecy….

  5. The Dork of Cork Says:

    How did this project work out ?
    http://www.aran-isles.com/blog/alterative-energy/
    By the way I don’t begrudge rural and Gaeltacht areas this experiment (islands are very oil intensive places to live if you want to have a standard of living above peasant subsistence class)
    There are far more subtle transfers to rural areas.
    But I am just asking like.

  6. David O'Donnell Says:

    @Richard Tol

    Good newz on the ‘growth’ front

    3 Share Nobel Physics Prize for Research on Expansion of the Universe

    STOCKHOLM (AP) — The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says Saul Perlmutter and Adam Riess, both American, and Brian Schmidt, a U.S.-Australian citizen, share the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics.

    The trio were honored Tuesday “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations of distant supernovae.”

    Read More:
    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/10/04/science/AP-EU-SCI-Nobel-Physics.html?emc=na

  7. Paul Hunt Says:

    @Richard,

    Many thanks for bringing Pat’s path-breaking case to some public attention. I am aware that Pat has been frustrated by the unwillingness of the mainstream media to provide any coverage of his case – quelle suprise.

    (However, linking this to the Tasc-sponsored series of essays may prove to be a distraction. Scope for another post and thread, perhaps, by you or someone else? Though I do find that, in contrast to the Right who hanker for a return to a Nirvana that never was, the Left seems to dream and hope for a Nirvana that never will be nor can be.)

    The issue here is the proper scrutiny and formulation of public policy in the environmental area. Whether the outcomes are in line with the ideological posturings of the Right or the Left isn’t the issue; what matters is the process. If the process is flawed, the outcomes, by definition, will be flawed. If the process is conducted properly, the outcomes may not be optimal – indeed they may fall far short of optimality – but they will have a measure of democratic legitimacy and they may be modified or amended as experience is gained.

    I must admit that, prior to Pat bringing the full workings of the Aarhus Convention to my attention, I was not aware of the extent to which it gives force and substance to the transparent scrutiny and contestation of policy proposals prior to final decisions being made about which I’ve been banging on for what seems years on this blog and elsewhere.

    Like you, I’m no lawyer, but I’ve read the implementation guide:
    http://www.unece.org/env/pp/acig.html

    There is no doubt that the European Commission’s formulation and implementation of the Climate Change 20:20:20 primary legislation falls some way short of the standard set in the Convention. But it followed the usual approach: the Commission drafts and redrafts the primary legislation to ensure agreement at the European Council, the Parliament is ‘sqaured’, and the Commission relies on the executive dominance exercised by member-state governments to ram transposition of this primary legislation into national law through their parliaments. This empowers all the relevant agencies and austhorises the various excetive actions, plans and programmes. The usual ‘optical illusion’ of public consultation is then pursued where submissions are invited from interested parties; those who concur with the approach get a pat on the head and those who contest the decisions already made are ignored or dismissed.

    In the context of environmental policy in Ireland the situation is complicated because, although the EU has ratified it, Ireland has not explicitly ratified the Aarhus Convention. However, the EU appears to have, what might be called, a ‘duty of care’ to ensure complience with its provisions even in those member-states which have not ratified it.

    Not surprisingly, the EU’s legal officers are doing their best to minimise the ‘duty of care’ in this case and I fear they may be successful. And although the enactment and implementation of this legislation in Ireland fell well short of the Convention’s requirements – even if it was probably better than the usual railroading employed – Ireland is not, directly, a party in these processings of the Compliance Cttee.

    Even if the Compliance Cttee were minded to make a finding of non-compliance, they will find it hard to hit the right target. The EU will dodge any responsibility and the Irish Government will say it’s not a party in the action. There is so much at stake that I expect intense pressure will be exerted, directly and indirectly, on the Cttee to issue a rap on the knuckles and an exhortation to do better next time.

    However, in the context of the energy sctor review being conducted by the IEA at the moment (part of the Troika’s MoU demands) and the behind-the-scenes manoeuverings to establish this NewERA vehicle, it might make sense to take control of this run-away train that is renewables policy and to try to work out something a little more sensible.

  8. fergaloh Says:

    …Three sources of money: tax revenue, reinvestment of profits by state-owned companies (which could have been paid in dividend to the owners aka the tax payer),

    Has any semi-state ever paid a cent to the govt?

  9. Dom K. Says:

    ESB was regularly paying dividends and I think it still does. In bumper years upwards of E300m were paid.

  10. Dom K. Says:

    My favorite is when Obama and the likes speak of creating green jobs and green economy. As evident, such proponents of this utopia are never concerned with the cost-benefit analysis. Furthermore, by stating that they have created x thousands of green jobs they overlook the other side of equation – jobs destroyed by diverting investments into this folly.

  11. Ludwig Heinrich Edler Says:

    The environmental area is not the only one in which proper scrutiny and transparency are lacking.

    Dept of Finance guidelines for tenders on PPP projects do not permit revealing the cost aspect of CBAs, nominally to protect the commercial interests of the private partner.

    This goes for the proposed metro project, inter alia.

    You can never have too critical a CBA process, IMHO. Sort of like the carpentry rule:

    Measure twice, cut once.

  12. Donal O'Brolchain Says:

    re. Transparency

    needed not just in energy policy, but throughout government

    see

    http://politicalreform.ie/2011/09/30/seanad-public-consultation-committee/comment-page-1/#comment-6037

    http://politicalreform.ie/2011/09/09/open-letter-to-tds-and-senators/

    http://politicalreform.ie/2010/06/21/freedom-of-information-and-corruption/

  13. Paul Hunt Says:

    @Fergaloh,

    Dom K. is correct. ESB divvies (€m) as follows; (apologies for layout)

    2005 77.4
    2006 72.4
    2007 66.7
    2008 129.5
    2009 207.3 (additional proceeds from sale of assets)
    2010 94.4

    The State Asset Review Group’s Report provides a lot of detail:
    http://www.finance.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=6823&CatID=45&StartDate=1+January+2011

    The cruel irony for consumers in the ESB case is that on top of paying excessively high prices to part-finance huge ESB capex (without a cent in equity from the Exchequer) they paid even more to fund these divvies.

    With a business growing rapidly (for example, the book value of the ESB networks – the biggest part of the business – has more than trebled in the last decade) a rational shareholder would have foregone much of these dividends to part-finance investment and probably topped up with additional equity. Instead consumers (meaning all citizens twice – first as direct consumers and then as customers of the businesses paying these high prices) are ‘taxed’ to keep the ESB in the style to which it has become accustomed.

    You really couldn’t make it up. The manner in which successive governments (and the ESB) have been able to get away with this is of a piece with the legal case Pat Swords has being advancing in the energy/environmental area.

  14. Dom K. Says:

    In fairness some of the income came from overseas operations but not much. The thing is that ‘the business growing rapidly’ as referred to in relatoin to the growth of book value of ESB Networks is in fact the rapid expansion of the infamous transmission asset base which was a direct result in good part of transmission network reinforcements necessary to connect all those wonderful wind farms scattered all over the country. Admittedly, the transmission network needed reinforcement anyway but according to my entirely unscientific wet-finger-in-the-air estimate is that at least 40% of transmission network expansion in the past 5 years that can be attributed to the wind folly. This was part-funded from profits and part-funded by borrowing but you are correct all through this expansion the government used ESB to top up its income. So there you go – it is a tax by another name.

  15. Paul Hunt Says:

    @Dom K.,

    I agree there are some nuances, but the main points are unarguable. It is also important to keep the focus on the fact that the nature of these shenanigans is precisely the same as the substance of Pat Swords’s case – and in some respects they overlap.

    It is also worth bearing in mind that we had a pretty expensive and, allegedly, comprehensive review of the electricity sector by a major consultancy in 2006 and Energy Green and White Papers following this with a full-blown ‘public consultation’. Every effort was made (successfully) to avoid any consideration of this nonsense.

    A large number of bodies, agencies, firms and individuals have been able to turn a blind eye to this for a very long time.

  16. Mike Hall Says:

    Cont….

    Mr Swords, you repeat a number of times in your book (I’ve linked above) that ‘…money does not grow on trees…’, considering this axiomatic. Well, for households, businesses, +users+ of a currency this is a pretty solid analogy.

    But, in the +macro+ economics operations of currency +issuers+, this analogy is, well, plain wrong. In the systems of ‘money’ now most prevalent in the world, ‘fiat’, ‘floating’ currencies, money could be said to be even more bountiful than if it actually grew on trees. Of course, as currency +users+, we are prohibited access to such ‘orchards’. BUT, the governments, +issuing+ authorities of such currencies, do indeed have access to such ‘orchards’ on citizens’ behalf. This is no ‘what if’ fantasy. My statements reflect the present reality of actual central bank/treasury, accounting/monetary operations.

    The idea that such currency +issuers+ need ‘borrow’ in the sense of receiving some currency that already exists in some bank ‘account’ (or piggybank!) is a complete fiction. A political construct. (You might wish to consider ‘why’ this fiction remains, noting that the only other ‘authorities’ with such money-from-nothing power are the private commercial banks, which activity is their core profit-making business, but let’s leave that for now.)

    So, we’ve established that UK gov, US gov or even an ECB/Euro Treasury could ‘spend’ money freely created from nowhere. Are there any constraints? Yes, of course there are, and Mr Swords, as a capable engineer, I want you to pay even closer attention to this concept. Here we go…

    The key limiting factor of (‘fiat’, ‘free’) currency +issuers+ is…..THERE MUST BE IDLE, AVAILABLE +RESOURCES+ TO BE PURCHASED.

    IF the desired resources, labour or materials are ALREADY at or near CAPACITY UTILISATION, we should not try to purchase them. This is the condition to AVOID INFLATION.

    That’s it. With those VITAL conditions, currency +issuers+ (Governments!) may spend, invest as they wish DEBT & DEBT SERVICE FREE.

    Now, Mr Swords, does that idea sound interesting to you, an engineer with some interest in the choice and introduction of new technologies which we need to make us & planet Earth sustainable?

    It should. The key issue for you is RESOURCES. You need only consider ‘costs’ as far as there are resources to be purchased which are already utilised to capacity. Then you must consider the effects of that. Not always then a deal breaker, but the economic implications must be carefully considered. Puts a different perspective on things eh?

    (Please reread my last few paras carefully – elephant-in-room syndrome is known to eradicate visual perception when such ‘heresy’ is encountered!)

    If you wish read source material on the macro economics school of thought I’ve introduced – ‘MMT’ economics with ‘functional finance’ – probably the best online commentary from this perspective is the blog of Prof Bill Mitchell:

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/

  17. Darren Snow Says:

    In terms of transparency all agreed but…

    ” I am aware of the long list of wonderful things that are claimed to be benefits of renewable energy. I do not think any of them stacks up.”

    The benefit of renewables is that they aren’t going to run out quite as soon as oil and gas.

  18. Pat Swords BE CEng FIChemE CEnv MIEMA Says:

    Many thanks to Richard Tol for highlighting this important case.

    The real issue that should not be forgotten is the Citizen’s Rights under the Aarhus Convention and the resulting obligations on Public Authorities with regard to transparency in Governance. Therefore I would encourage all to look at the UNECE Aarhus Convention webpage. There is a thre minute video, while the Convention itself is easily read. Furthermore, if one reads the UNECE ‘Aarhus Convention An Implementation Guide’, one will see how policies should be developed (Article 7) and planning permissions determined (Article 6).

    I make no apology for the manner in which I have at times been abrasive in this case. I trained administrators / industry in the new Member States in this form of administration and the citizens with regard to their Rights. I refuse to accept second class EU citizenship in this country. In the absence of decision making based on transparent assessment relative to defined benchmarks, the result is that the resulting vacuum is soon filled by personal and political agendas, which in turn leads to corruption and criminality.

    With regard to lectures on economics and the benefits of renewable energy, before a cent is taken off a citizen or a restriction placed on them, two questions have to be properly answered; why are we doing this and how much does it cost?

    To date in Ireland nearly a thousand wind turbines have been installed, including grid connections and interconnecter over €3 billion in capital investment, as a result our electricity prices are soaring. So we have 12% of our electricty generated by wind, but only about a 3% reduction in fuel and emissions. If we put more turbines in place to reach the 40% in the target, we won’t get any more fuel savings. Details on this at the end of the UNECE webpage.

    This was known in advance by the engineering and technical community. There was a refusal to listen to them, plus there was a complete failure to complete the necessary assessments. Instead we had a Green ideology, which refuses to accept scientific evidence (is ignorant), is intolerant and anti-democratic. If the necessary environmental assessments and democratic procedures had not been delibrately by-passed we would not be where we are today.

    With regard to climate change, it has always changed; go read a book like the Brendan Voyage or visit the Ceide Fields or a good art gallery. Engineers complete complex heat and mass calcualtions over large industrial facilities. The global warming ‘evidence’ is providied by a very limited number of computer modellers. That they can predict such subtle changes with such accuracy given the complexities and natural variations that are involved is simply pure arrogance. There has been a singular and absolute failure to establish what exactly is the damage cost of carbon dioxide. A mandatory part of the legal assessments above is to define what is the likely state of the environment without implementation of the plan or programme. This has not been established.

  19. Dom K. Says:

    Mr. Hall,

    Nice essay, fundamentally flawed though insofar that it assumes printing money faster than the rate implied by the growth will not produce inflation but nevertheless we appreciate the effort. The trouble is, your essay is pretty pointless as far as Ireland is concerned as this country owns no currency so the assumption that all those nice wind farms were bough at no cost is, how shall I put it….. let’s remain polite: wrong. All these nice new technologies do come at the expense of other investments.

  20. Brian Woods Snr Says:

    @DS: “The benefit of renewables is that they aren’t going to run out quite as soon as oil and gas.”

    Eh! No, Darren – but there are the little matters of ‘building out’, ‘maintenance’, ‘repairs’ and ‘renewals’. And the energy bill for all that has to be paid, primarily with a liquid called oil. Gas is good too, but less so than oil. Electricity – now that has to be generated by … You guessed it!

    We are not ‘running out’ of oil and gas, but we have (according to reliable sources) reached a global production plateau (2005 has been mentioned). Worse, the rate of new global discoveries is less than the rate of global decline (for oil). Gas is different, at the moment. But worser (sic), the domestic consumption of the major producers is on an exponential up-trend.

    Big trouble on fossil fuel energy front.

    Brian Snr.

  21. Dom K. Says:

    @ Mr. Woods Snr

    If I had a dollar for each time we reached peak oil or whatever other fancy term is used……..

  22. Donal O'Brolchain Says:

    @Ludwig
    Agree entirely.
    Our whole way of governing ourselves is based on secrecy.
    The governing classes operate on the assumption that we can have the liberties of subjects, but not the rights of citizens.

    For more on this, see my reaction to the uncalled for (except by the then powers-that-be) changes in 2003 to 1997 Freedom of Information Act here

    http://www.thepost.ie/archives/2003/0316/a-basic-right-for-citizens-182315047.html

    and later postings on politicalreform.ie

    http://politicalreform.ie/2011/09/09/open-letter-to-tds-and-senators/

    http://politicalreform.ie/2010/06/21/freedom-of-information-and-corruption/

    http://politicalreform.ie/2011/09/30/seanad-public-consultation-committee/comment-page-1/#comment-6037

  23. Brian Woods Snr Says:

    @Dom K: You’d be broke Dom! We ain’t at PO, that is half of recoverable amounts. The geology critters can only provide a probabilistic estimate. I would respectfully suggest you refrain from placing any money on that nag!

    However we, appear, to have reached a peak of global liquids production. Nothing really positive, but worrisome trends none the less. There are some other geology issues which may turn out real bad. Have to wait and see. Technological innovations seem to be working some magic, but even these will come up against limits. Have to wait and see.

    The techies are suggesting a two decade lead-in time for so-called renewables to off-set a proportion (range varies from 30% – 70%) of fossil fuels which we currently use. That leaves a very uncomfortable deficit. And we know how deficits are closed: austerity. Bad if its money, but energy … !!!

    So, if Irl Inc bucks the global trend and gets its re-usable energy generation out of the start-gate, and up to full capacity, we will still have a gap to fill, and that can only be closed with fossil fuels. Not good.

    Brian Snr.

  24. The Dork of Cork Says:

    @Pat Swords
    Thanks for your valiant efforts – I also don’t think Wind / gas network is a viable industrial policey although wind may be useful in niche areas – perhaps in concert with a pumped storage facility (Giant water battery)

    But they certainly cannot be relied on for base load operations or in direct conjunction with base load activities.
    The alternative high operating cost gas turbine / wind power symbiosis would most certainly deindustrialise us – but perhaps that is the plan ?

  25. Mike Hall Says:

    @ Dom K

    Your point is valid if you are entirely comfortable for Ireland’s economic policy to be revealed by diktat from the bankster elite’s primary mouthpiece, the ECB.

    Once economists here give up the kool aid & realise what the possibilities really are, they might consider an different approach is worth fighting for, either within the EMU, or outside it if neccesary.

    Pat Swords response I think tends to further suggest there’s more ideological agenda than scientific credibility in his work in his assessment of climate change.

  26. The Dork of Cork Says:

    @Pat Swords
    Is it true that you have skin in this game ? Just asking like.

  27. The Dork of Cork Says:

    @Dom K.
    We did reach peak oil of sorts back in the 70s – when one of the superpowers lost its growing capacity and dominance in the market – it had to change its monetory and force projection status dramatically under the Carter Doctrine.( the victory in the second Gulf war was formulated & war gamed at that time)
    This created a great turmoil is the western world (we still have not recovered due to grave policey mistakes)
    I.e. – quite correctly oil electricity plants were shut down and replaced by other forms of generation such as Gas & more Coal.
    This along with a still rising world supply and dramatic longer term capital reduction plans which impinged on long term growth created a 80s global oil glut.
    The policies of monetarism were incorrectly attributed to this glut although they did slow down or shut down many of the long term capital projects in order to increase short term consumption which indeed filled this hole by 1990.
    Peak oil is always with us – if we expand – but policey decisions can at least sometimes defer collapse if we make the right decisions.

  28. EWI Says:

    It is deeply shocking to me to see Richard Tol promoting this Mr. Swords and his, err, unique… views.

    Additionally, how did Tol come by the information that ‘Slí Éile’ is this woman? Or was this a deliberate outing?

  29. Dom K. Says:

    Ah this is nice, everyone who dares to question the feasibility of multi-billion direct and indirect investments in wind energy and other gimmicks must be accused of ideological bias. The pattern is as usual:

    1. Do not discuss science / economy (there is no cost benefit analysis and it is not needed!)
    2. Repeat the mantra (global warming, oil reliance)
    3. Attack the man (ideological bias, paid by BP, this, that)

  30. Richard Tol Says:

    @Dork
    The law is simple in this regard: Anyone has a right to access information, regardless of their opinion, interest or morality.

  31. Paul Hunt Says:

    The issue here is the democratic legitimacy of specific policy actions; the economics is secondary in that has a role to play in demonstarting the democratic legitimacy (or not) of the policy actions; and, as Richard points out, the identity, interests, views or morality of the citizen questioning the democratic legitimacy of these policy actions is entirely irrelevant.

    In most parliamentary democracies governments operate on the basis that the democratic legitimacy of their executive actions is assured if they can maintain a parliamentary majority. Where there is excessive executive dominance (and the UK and Ireland are the extreme end of this spectrum), the whip system, factional loyalty and discipline and the use of patronage all work to ensure the maintenance of this parliamentary majority – and the assumed democratic legitimacy of all legislation enacted and executive actions.

    Public consultation processes are employed to convey the optical illusion of making an effort to secure and re-inforce the democratic legitimacy of public policy, but the reality is that the decisions have been made in advance of the process being initiated. Submissions are invited from the public and interested parties. Those that concur with the proposed policy, progarmme or action are acknowledged; those that contest or question these are ignored or dismissed – irrespective of the evidence or analysis advanced. These is no opportunity for open adversarial disputation on the basis of the evidence and the analysis, for rebuttal or counter-rebuttal, for identifying common ground or for modifying or amending the policy, plan or programme.

    The basis for this case is that the Aarhus Convention holds governments to a higher standard than this in the environmental policy area and requires them to demonstrate some genuine democratic accountability beyond a reliance on this optical illusion of a consultation process reinforced by a parliamentary majority. In all policy areas the Irish Government simply goes through the motions, but, in this instance, there is a case to be answered that this was not sufficient to comply with the Aarhus Convention.

    It is impossible to predict what decision the Compliance Cttee will make, since it will be under enormous pressure not to undermine the legislation and programmes that have been rail-roade through at both the EU level and at member-state level.

    Irrespective of the outcome, the key point is that the Aarhus Convention should be applied to all public policy making. The requirement to maintain democratic legitimacy does not end once a government secures a parliamentary majority following a general election.

  32. Tim Morrissey Says:

    @ RT, PH,DK,PS

    Is your central premise that fossil fuel extraction will not significantly rise in cost say from 2030 and beyond and/or that nuclear energy is available for Ireland at 2-3c/kWh?

  33. Paul Hunt Says:

    @Tim Morrissey,

    Others may respond as they wish. I’m not making any assumptions at all. My simple desire is to see a robust adversarial disputation based on facts, evidence and analysis that leads to the formulation of flexible, but robust, least cost, ‘no regret’ energy and climate change policies. If this is done properly the issues/assumptions you raise will all come out in the wash.

    This thread is about a plausible case that has been made to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Cttee that we have not gone through this process in Ireland. I happen to agree with the case being made. I genuinely have no pre-conceived notions about the best mix of fuels or sources. Outside the environmental area I have also encountered (and railed against) the use of this optical illusion of ‘public consultation’ to paint a figleaf of democratic legitimacy on pre-cooked policies in Ireland, the UK and at the EU level.

  34. Gavin Kostick Says:

    @ Adrian Kelleher

    If you have a moment: what is PM group?

  35. Adrian Kelleher Says:

    @Gavin Kostick

    It’s a multinational engineering, architectural and construction consultancy.

    http://www.pmgroup-global.com/

    http://www.pmgroup-global.com/sectors/Energy.aspx

  36. Gavin Kostick Says:

    @ Adrian Kelleher

    Ta very much. In that case, I’m curious:

    @ Pat Swords BE CEng FIChemE CEnv MIEMA Says

    I take it that Adrian Kelleher has you down as a representative of PM Group.

    Your Linkedin page has you as “•Principal Process and Environment, Health and Safety Consultant at PM Group ”

    What do you do for PM Group?

  37. Tim Morrissey Says:

    @Paul Hunt

    I respect your views and admire your forthrightness in your contributions. The fact is though that my above question is central to the issue because any cost-benefit analysis has to be based on certain assumptions made in the here and now even though you are dealing with at least 25yr project lifespans in energy.

    Richard Tol is selective in the topics he brings to attention on this site. His brief covers energy and environment but yet we have not heard any discussion on projects such as the €220m Ringsend wastewater treatment plant extension announced in the Irish Times this week. Should this important site not have more than one topic initiator in the energy/environmental space?

  38. Richard Tol Says:

    @Tim
    The discussion is about whether a CBA should have been done, not about how it should be done or what the results would be.

    Competition would be great, but environmental economics is a small and shrinking profession in Ireland. We’ve done a bit of work on sewage treatment, but too little to comment on Ringsend.

  39. Paul Hunt Says:

    @Not All (but you know who you are),

    What’s all this ad hominem stuff? It doesn’t matter who has brought this case. This case is being considered properly and appropriately by the Compliance Cttee of the Aarhus Convention. Let’s wait and see what it decides.

    There has to be considerable doubt that the consultation process employed by the Irish authorities did, in fact, confer the democratic legitimacy required under the Aarhus Convention to enact the policies and set the various programmes and plans in place.

    I, for one, am pleased that this issue is getting the scrutiny it deserves. I realise that were the Cttee to decide there was non-compliance to some extent or other it would cause major grief to a large number of people, but this provides no basis for ad hominem attacks.

    Are some people seriously suggesting that the democratic legitimacy of public policy should be sacrificed to ensure the implementation of their desired response to climate change – without full and robust presentation and adversarial disputation of all relevant evidence and analysis?

    @Tim M,

    As per the above the assumptions, issues, objectives, means and costs of climate change policy have not been trashed out properly in Ireland. We really need to do it properly.

  40. Paul Hunt Says:

    @Adrian Kelleher,

    I am not defending Pat Swords. As I’ve tried to emphasise the identify of the person bringing this case is, and should be, irrelevant. In my view the case has some merit and it is good that it is getting the appropriate consideration by the Compliance Cttee. And it is good that the case is being brought to public attention.

    Other procedures and mechanisms exist to deal with the issues you raise. There are no grounds for conflating them with the specific issues being considered by the Cttee in this case.

  41. Tim Morrissey Says:

    @Richard Tol

    Why define discussion on a blog so narrowly and fail to answer a very straightforward question?

    Is the cost-benefit analysis of a €220m project in the energy/environmental space not of concern to you?

    I appreciate your willingness to engage but the site needs at least one other regular initiator in this field to avoid selection bias.

  42. DylansGoneElectric Says:

    @ Pat
    Best of luck with your case and well done for initiating it and getting this far. The opinions cited in the documents listed and book referenced above could only be personal ones. References to your employer are irrelevant.

    Any suggestion that PM Group are somehow behind this action would need an explanation of how reducing the spend on renewable/network infrastructure could be in their interest. Plenty of engineers (and of course other professionals) follow the money and projects without concern for taxpayer. Questioning of a project’s merit by a private citizen when this is likely to be contrary to their own professional or career interest is to be commended.

    It is worth establishing that the costs and benefits of the renewables programme did not get the scrutiny an investment of that magnitude deserved. Many industry players and professionals are fully aware of this. Who knows, Pat may win his case and a transparent cost/benefit analysis for infrastructure projects may result.

  43. Tim Morrissey Says:

    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/New-Problems-in-Olkiluoto/

    This may add some perspective to Pat Swords’ views as expressed in his book referred to by Mike Hall.

    Nuclear energy available to Ireland at 2-3c/kWh?

  44. Adrian Kelleher Says:

    @Richard Tol

    What are the lessons regarding transparency of the Poolbeg incinerator contract? You were an enthusiastic advocate for this still secret contract, and ESRI has undertaken work on its behalf, an undertaking that has done transparency no favours.

  45. Mickey Hickey Says:

    It seems to me that if they do not like the cut of your jib you get the jab. The EU (no doubt acting with input from the Irish gov’t) is as disdainful as the Irish Gov’t. We just have to accept that there is no getting away from the cute hoors.

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