Commercial rates on wind farms could put companies out of business and may threaten Ireland's ability to meet European Union-imposed renewable energy targets, the head of an industry body has warned.
According to reports in Tuesday's The Times Ireland newspaper, Grattan Healy, chairman of the Irish Wind Farmers' Association, has called for reforms to the way in which commercial rates are calculated for wind farms.
He said that an IWFA member in Carlow was being asked to pay well over €100,000 a year, up from just over €40,000 when it began operations. Another wind farmer in Limerick had a demand for more than €80,000, up from less than €20,000.
"Following the 2001 Valuation Act, the Valuation Office set about a revaluation of all rateable properties in Ireland," he said.
"Up to that time, wind farms were paying roughly the same rates per megawatt of generating capacity as other electricity generating stations and were fully accepting of same and happy to contribute to the local authority in support of their communities.
"However, the revaluation has in some instances tripled or even quadrupled rates for wind farms, while not doing anything similar for other generators. Such large increases amount to unfair Government policy."
The Government has a target of 70% of all energy coming from renewable sources by 2030. Ireland is the second worst EU member state in terms of meeting its commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr Healy said that many wind farmers were struggling to make ends meet and to keep their turbines functioning, as they were paying many times more in rates than generators that use fossil fuels. He added that the high rates were also deterring investors and putting community groups off wind.
Existing wind farms were developed under support schemes and relied on the fixed price offering for electricity generated as being sufficient to cover all reasonable costs.
Projects achieved bank approval on that basis and have contributed enormously to the task of reducing emissions, securing energy, creating employment and supporting communities.
"Now the state, through its valuation office, has decided to hugely increase the tax level on those same projects. This is an indirect form of retrospective change.
"Indeed, the increased tax may in some cases exceed the total support paid under the department’s support scheme, which defeats the whole purpose.
"The wind sector is keen to pay commercial rates, but rates that are reasonable and at a level similar to all other generators," Mr Healy said.
The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment did not respond to a request for a comment by the The Times Ireland.
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