ESB has been stuck in a swamp with its Derrybrien wind farm for almost 20 years. But it wasn’t until last week that it finally stopped digging.
The extent of the fraud in the development of Co Galway is difficult to fathom. After many years of dispute, the 70-turbine project is now being dismantled. As Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said, the ESB had not covered itself in glory on this issue.
No environmental impact assessment (EIA) was carried out for the project in the early noughties when it was built. EIAs didn’t have to be done back then, but that’s the difference between technical compliance and best practice.
We should have expected best practice from a company like ESB. Aside from the environmental damage in 2003, when there was a landslide – 450,000 tons of peat was destroyed on 25 hectares and about 50,000 fish were killed – the financial cost was astronomical.
This thing cost 72 million euros to build. Failure to ensure adequate retrospective planning has led to €17 million in EU fines – so far. Fines began in 2019 after the European Commission ordered the state to pay until compliance was achieved by submitting an ex-post environmental impact assessment. A Bord Pleanála refused a replacement or subsequent approval last month.
Now comes the cost of dismantling the whole thing.
At a time when people are struggling to pay utility bills, it’s upsetting to see this appalling waste of money.
Not only did it cost €90 million before demolition, the wind farm’s accounts show it lost money in four of the ten years between 2010 and 2019.
The accounts of Gort Windfarms Ltd – the operator of the park – show that it made a profit of €15.8m in 2013. But other than that year, its bottom-line profitability was either unimpressive or non-existent.
In 2010 she lost 1.2 million euros; €2.2 million in 2016; €11.5 million in 2017 (after a €10.5 million facility write-down); and lost 1.3 million euros in 2019.
You cannot have a green pass without an environmental impact assessment.
corporate dilemmas and the high cost of peace
All will welcome tentative steps toward a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine. Agreeing to a settlement would end the war and remove some level of international economic uncertainty caused by the invasion.
But for companies that have decided to go out of business in or with Russia, things may not be that simple. It could remain very complicated for Western governments to decide what to do with sanctions once an agreement is reached.
Will the EU, UK, US and others all keep their sanctions if a deal is reached? Because a deal that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could make with Moscow will not change the war crimes of the Putin regime.
Nor would it change the fact that the Ukrainian people would have been forced to reach some sort of compromise while staring down the barrel of a Russian gun.
Yet everything from stock markets to oil prices reacted positively to the news that talks were moving forward.
Ironically the situation for business with Russia can become even more complicated after an agreement.
For example, retailers and consumer brands that have pulled out of Russia – not because of sanctions, but because of a combination of ethics, reputational damage and the ability not to get paid through the banking system – must decide whether it’s reputationally safe for them to return.
Energy companies like BP and ExxonMobil have promised to leave Russia because of the war in Ukraine. Will they stick to this plan if there is a deal?
Likewise, lesser-known companies serving the country’s oil industry have not followed suit.
Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Halliburton are three of the largest western oilfield service companies contracted for drilling and oil production in Russia. The US has ordered sanctions against buying Russian oil and investing in new oil projects there.
However, these companies are under no legal obligation to stop providing services to companies like Gazprom or Rosneft. In fact, Schlumberger has invested over $10 billion in Russia over the past decade.
Oil prices continued their recent downward thrust last week, with Brent crude falling below $98 a barrel on Wednesday, more than $40 a barrel from its high just over a week ago.
Is there a suspicion that normality could return in the event of a peace agreement with the Putin regime?
That seems very unlikely, especially for the likes of the oligarchs in Britain. This romance is over. but When the killing ends Will the West keep up the pressure on the Putin regime by maintaining sanctions on banks and international payments?
Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International said it was considering an exit from Russia just weeks after its chief executive said the lender – which generates a third of its profits in the country – would remain.
Several well-known banks have announced plans to leave Russia, including JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank.
One has to assume that in the event of a peace agreement, sanctions will only be removed slowly – perhaps even over time when no one is looking.
Peace deal or not, some things won’t be the same. Several European countries will be determined to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas. This will affect production and price in the coming years.
US President Joe Biden has called Vladimir Putin a “war criminal”. That assessment cannot change if the slaughter stops. American economic policy towards Russia must remain in place even if there is a Russian peace agreement with Ukraine.
Western governments will want to maintain the moral high ground even if an agreement is reached. Reality doesn’t always play out that way. Sanctions imposed after Putin seized Crimea in 2014 technically remained – yet everyone seemed to be doing more business with Russia after 2014 than before.
Sanctions and slippage go hand in hand.
Shannon Foynes has the right idea for the future
Regardless of the outcome of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Europe must wean itself off of Putin’s fossil fuels. This imperative has already had some Germans knocking on Irish doors as they seek to harness Ireland’s offshore wind power potential.
There is an opportunity to develop this industry and export energy to Europe as long as we can get the best economic returns from it. On the other hand, it has to be quick.
Ireland is already late for the offshore wind party and its ambitions look modest with a target of 5GW offshore wind by 2030.
Shannon Foynes Port was quick to recognize the potential of this emerging industry and is wasting no time in positioning itself as a key hub for such activity. During the week, the port revealed details of a €25 million investment – but more importantly, it has encouraged policymakers and the government to move faster and with greater ambition.
Port CEO Pat Keating was quick to see the potential for Ireland, especially given the need in places like Germany to find non-Russian sources of energy.
Offshore wind is Ireland’s chance to contribute to energy security, improve climate targets and create a brand new industry. We should not hesitate any longer.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/after-20-years-stuck-in-a-boghole-the-esb-decided-to-stop-digging-41461557.html After 20 years in a swamp, the ESB decided to stop digging