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What is the Spirit of Ireland all about?

For a couple of weeks I’d seem much positive comment about a project called “The Spirit of Ireland”, including in last weekends Sunday Business Post –Spirit of Ireland plans energy transformation.

I don’t know anything about this proposal apart from the highlevel details provided on the Spirit of Ireland website plus any details provided in the overwhelmingly positive newspaper coverage. My observation here is on the coverage of the idea, rather than the idea itself.

The unquestioning coverage given to this idea strikes me as very similar to that given to The Ideas Campaign (whatever happened to that then?). At a time when, as a country, we could all do with some good news, it’s a pity that anything vaguely positive is reported without any real analysis being done into the details.

For some more detailed and reasoned analysis of the Spirit of Ireland project, check out the Irish Economy blog and Turbulence Ahead.

7 comments On What is the Spirit of Ireland all about?

  • It appears from the Irish Economy blog, Tol asked SOI for payment in order to do study for them and did not get it. It appears he never met the SOI team and got his facts wrong. Where is his detailed and reasoned analysis?

  • @Serge
    SoI called me up because they needed an economic analysis. I quoted a price, a time frame, and I gave them a preview of likely results. They lost interest and went public a week or so later.

    My preview was later posted on http://www.irisheconomy.ie.

    We have not (yet?) done a detailed economic analysis. My preview is based on general knowledge of energy and Ireland. For example, less than 10,000 people work in power generation and distribution, so promising tens of thousands of new jobs would imply a substantial increase in the total wage bill. And, putting a saltwater reservoir in a freshwater environment is hard to reconcile with European rules on environmental impact assessment and nature conservation.

  • Spirit of Ireland

    I asked Richard Toll the following, I am still waiting for a response.

    On Richard Toll’s blog:

    I have reviewed some of the earlier comments in this blog. I have the follwoing questions:

    1. Is it true that ESRI sought to extract hundred’s of thousand of Euro’s from a voluntary group working in the interests of the people of Ireland? I cant believe John Fitzgerald agreed to this. Please confirm it isnt true and state openly and publicly how much the ESRI sought to extract.

    2 Did you discuss the details of this project with the people working on it? If so when?

    3 What is your/ESRI proposal to take Ireland to Energy Independence? Please tell us.

    4 How do you/ESRI propose we become energy secure? Please tell us.

    5 If the Danes have made a major industry of natural energy, why should we not do so in Ireland?

    6 For every 100MW of wind installed the Danes created 691 jobs. Why cant we do this? If we can will the ESRI tell us how?

    7 If it cannot propose an alternate solution, what will you/the ESRI do to actively assist these people working in all our interest?

    I dont understand where you/ESRI are coming from. Please enlighten us.


  • Dear Richard,
    Thank you for your response. I believe reasoned dialogue is always beneficial. Its the only way we learn from one another.

    I’m not a huge fan of wind power but I’m even less of a fan of burning fossil fuels or nuclear waste. At this time wind is the only real alternative. Would you agree?

    Wind power is expensive in initial capital costs but low in terms of life costs. Spirit of Ireland say the project will only proceed if they can bring the cost down to €1.3m per MW installed. They are certainly taking on a serious challenge here but if they can do it, this would be a fine achievement. Would you agree?

    I asked them what they expected the power price to be. They responded “7-8 cents per kW hour fixed for 10 years with discounts to large users”. “The price would then decline to “5-6 cents per kW hour once capital is paid down.” As an Irish user of electricity I would be very happy with this position. The huge variations we are presently exposed to external costs are penal and extremely dangerous to what remains of our economy. I think you misunderstand the way Spirit of Ireland proposes to use the hydro storage reservoirs. On the basis they propose it actually has the effect of flattening prices. Would you agree?

    Surely the bulk of employment is created over the five years of construction. I can see it would take thousands of people to make, erect comission and wire thousands of windmills. Therafter it would be service and maintenance. Why not create these jobs?

    On your other comments:

    1. Who presented Spirit of Ireland as being the agent of commercial interests? Are you/ESRI accusing Spirit of Ireland as being the puppet of a “major foreign company”? If so that’s one heck of an accusation. Who in your view is this “major foreign company”?

    2. Of course they are not designing a “crucial” piece of infrastructure. What I understand they are doing is specifying and costiing in detail so that we can all decide if we want to do this. What’s wrong with this?

    3. As you won’t come out clean and say what the ESRI sought to extract from a voluntary organisation working in all our interest, we can only presume the “five figure” sum to be of the order of €90,000. Good heavens. How did the ESRI get this so badly wrong?

    4. What is the ESRI doing in practical terms for this sector of the economy. We have the highest or second highest energy prices in Europe. What exactly in a few words is ESRI proposing we do about this?

    5. As you are not engineers, power network planners, market experts and have no direct experience and connection with the power industry, how can you/ESRI possibly justify a fee of €90,000?

    6. Who did you communicate with in Spirit of Ireland? It seems you/ESRI go off on the wrong foot. I’m prepared to contact them to see if they and ESRI can work together in the interests of the country. If they agree are you prepared to do so too?

    7. I looked at the Spirit of Ireland web site. There is tons of information on it and it seems more is added all the time. Where did you get the idea that you needed a “freedom of information” request. I asked them questions and they came back in a few hours or next day. What is it you can’t find?

    8. You/ESRI must be the only people in Ireland who think our present situation with respect to energy is right. Are you/ESRI really saying that energy independence is not a goal worth pursuing?

    I looked at your 2007 report on energy security. You need to take another look. It’s hopelessly out of date. You /ESRI is clearly not aware of the very considerable difficulties we face.

    Your view of how these hydo reservoirs will be used in the Irish system is absurdly basic. A child of four would know that you don’t depend on the reservoirs to cover all possibilities. Read what’s on the Spirit of Ireland web site. They are not proposing to shut all the existing stations. These are used with the hydro storage reservoirs and this greatly reduces the number of plant starts and therefore increases plant like, reduces maintenance costs and lowers overall energy prices.The objecive is to reach a point where our national needs are met in conjunction with gas and the balance is exported to offset the cost of gas imports. Energy cost neutral. Simple, isnt it?

    On political support, I don’t see that as too relevant. This follows public opinion. If people around the country want to farm the wind the politicians will support. What’s to worry about?

    “Denmark is doing well out of wind energy ….The Danish profits are, in fact, paid by taxpayers and consumers in other countries……Ireland does not excel in mechanical engineering or in system design and optimisation.” Your comments. What’s wrong with this?

    You/ESRI must think we can do nothing in this country. Do you not know that ESB International and other Irish companies have produced world leading technology and services for the power industry around the globe. We have done it in many countries, we can do it here?

    I have a mechanical backgound and even I can see that what Spirit of Ireland is proposing is very basic vanilla technology and construction – well within our national capability. Would you like me to drop in and go through it with you?

    I think you’re missing the point on jobs. It takes an awful lot of massive foundations, steelwork, cabling, truck driving, cranes, etc to get 2,000 x 3MW windmills up and running. An arts undergraduate could see this. Do you not think we could do with the work? Does the ESRI have a better alternative?

    I have read in the papers that we are proposing to spend €4bn to €15bn on “upgrading the network”. Is this true? What’s it for? Do we have this €4bn to €15bn? I’m sure ESRI was at the root of this proposal. What will we have at the end of it?

    I worked for Ford and GM. Trust me, if you/ESRI are waiting on the car companies to rescue Ireland, God help us all. Demand side management failed miserably in the UK – several times! So is the ESRI going to make it work here?

    Even the Minister has said the interconnectors should be used for export. Is this your position too?

    You will cut our carbon emissions exactly how?

    We’d all love to hear what John Fitzgerald has to say about this. Will you ask him to come on?

    Richard, it’s time to come down to earth from the very comfortable ivory tower of ESRI reports – where nothing real ever has to be delivered. Safe indeed, no courage needed. Ireland needs to cut imports, grow exports and create real sustainable jobs. If you have a better practical proposal than the Spirit of Ireland project lets hear it in words the average experienced professional can understand. When will it be forthcoming?

    Kindest regards,


  • The blogger known as “James”, who writes as if he is a third party, signed a contribution as “Graham” over on Irish Economy. If my name were Graham, I would also work under an pseudonym for fear of being confused with Graham O’Donnell.

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