“WIND energy guidelines are a shambles, which proves that the government is not serious about tackling climate change,” said Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming.
The Laois deputy, who is also chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said that the government’s approach to the review of the National Wind Energy Guidelines is “a total shambles and proves the point that when it comes to tackling climate change, like everything else, Fine Gael is interested only in spin and PR.
“The government may talk about climate change and the need for sustainable renewable energy, yet the one item under their direct control, the review of the Wind Energy Development Guidelines, has been neglected, representing another example of incompetence by the government since 2016.
“The Programme for Government accepted the need for a review of the guidelines, as the existing 2006 guidelines were no longer fit for purpose. The 2006 guidelines were drawn up in an era when wind turbines were approximately 30 metres high; now, most planning applications are for 180-meter-high wind turbines.
“This change in technology has major implications for the environment, noise levels and setback distance from houses and buildings, as these technologies were never envisaged by the outdated 2006 guidelines.”
The Castletown-based TD said: “In 2016, the department commenced the review and around that time the European Court of Justice made it clear that the government was in breach of a 2001 EC directive and could not complete the review without carrying out a National Strategic Environment Assessment on the issue before the review was to be finalised.
“More recently, the new World Health Organisation guidelines, which deal with setback distance and noise, have now to be incorporated in the draft guidelines, which obviously is taking further time.
“The government will eventually publish draft guidelines followed by an eight-week public consultation period. The outcome of this will then be reviewed and the government cannot give a date as to when the process will be completed. It will be at least the end of 2019 or well into 2020 or possibly longer before we see the finalised guidelines.
“The reality is that the guidelines currently in use by local authorities and An Bord Pleanála fly in the face of the European Court of Justice decision in relation to an EU directive on environmental matters and the WHO guidelines on noise and setback distances.
“The government has lost confidence in the 2006 guidelines, but their three-year delay in finalising the new guidelines proves incompetence and a lack of a real commitment to tackling climate change by this government.
“We need these finalised immediately in the interest of the public, the planning process, wind farm operators and our national commitment to renewable energy. The granting of planning permission for such developments, under guidelines which are not fit for purpose, must not happen, as to do so would have a negative impact on the environment.”