Money to burn? Or 3,000 sustainable jobs for the Midlands
Does being ‘pro-environment’, mean being ‘anti-jobs’? Absolutely not, says An Taisce. Much of the coverage following the recent High Court decision overturning planning permission for the continued use of Edenderry power station has focused on the risk to the jobs of the workers in the facility, and understandable concern about the impact this might have on the local economy.
The Irish public will pay approximately €120 million [Note 1] in the next 12 months in order to keep three woefully unprofitable and pollution-intensive peat burning plants open. These three plants employ around 500 people. Therefore, the average annual subsidy paid in order to keep each worker on the payroll is in the region of €240,000.
Are there alternate ways of spending this €120 million annual peat subsidy that would support lots of sustainable jobs, reduce pollution and improve the health of our citizens, especially the vulnerable under-fives and elderly?
An Taisce believes the answer, overwhelmingly, is: yes. Retrofitting creates an average 26 jobs per €1 million spent (direct, indirect and induced) [Note 2]. If redirected, the peat PSO subsidy could therefore create and support around 3,120 jobs. We propose ring-fencing the revenue currently being paid via the peat PSO to the Midland counties; this way, more than six new jobs could be created in a regional retrofitting scheme for every one job lost with the closure of these peat plants.
The multiplier effect of over 3,000 new secure, sustainable salaries would mean a timely boost for local towns and villages right across the Midlands.
Nationally, more than a million homes are badly insulated, leading to huge heating bills for residents and local air pollution – while increasing Ireland’s dependence on highly polluting fossil fuels.
The average cost of retrofitting a typical Irish home to Near-Zero Energy [Note 3] Building is €25,000. The payback period to the householder is 15 years (with no subsidies) and 7.5 years (with 50% subsidies). The €120 million annual peat subsidy, apart from creating over 3,000 jobs, would lead to some 4,800 homes being retrofitted annually.
Instead of another ‘lost decade’ of overpaying to burn peat, over the next 10 years, almost 50,000 houses in the Midlands could be retrofitted to make cosier, healthier homes with dramatically reduced energy requirements. This means burning fewer solid or liquid fuels, which represents a significant reduction in our energy imports bill, which currently runs to over €6 billion a year.
That’s why we feel having to opt for either job creation or environmental responsibility is a false choice. As the ‘Greenprint’ report [Note 4] published by the IIEA pointed out, it is cheaper to save energy than to buy it. Despite this, “improving energy end-use efficiency remains… the least visible, least understood and most neglected way to provide energy services.”
For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
Note 1 http://www.publicpolicy.ie/pso-levy-an-update/
Note 2 Estimate supplied by the Tipperary Energy Agency
Note 3 http://www.nzeb-opendoors.ie
Note 4 http://www.iiea.com/publications/jobs-growth-and-reduced-energy-costs-greenprint-for-a-national-energy-efficiency-retrofit-programme