Instead of investing in energy use conservation, efficiency and renewable alternatives, the global trend in energy has been to increase the extraction rate of large scale open cast coal mining and extend oil and gas exploration into new areas and introduce problematic new technologies. Energy companies are in an exploration race to secure a level of fossil fuel extraction which is incompatible with the level of decarbonisation required to stabilise global climate at 2ºC average surface temperature above pre-industrial levels. Therefore, a national energy policy for Ireland should be primarily concerned with how energy consumption will be reduced and ensure all citizens are conscious of energy savings and how to secure them.

An Taisce has recommended that an Energy Policy for Ireland should not be developed further unless it becomes an integrated policy with:

  • A national climate strategy, in line with limiting global climate change to less than 2ºC above pre-industrial, as per Ireland’s internationally declared commitment.
  • A national strategy for energy conservation;
  • A national strategy for energy efficiency;
  • A national strategy for land-use planning;
  • A national strategy for energy decarbonisation, including:
    • the cessation of peat-based electricity generation immediately;
    • phasing out coal burning at Moneypoint over the next 3-4 years;
    • timetabled phase-out of all peat, coal and oil in domestic heating.
    • a policy for carbon stores

The key objectives that must be included in this Energy Policy with regard to conservation and efficiency include:

  • Reducing primary energy demand: retrofitting the national building stock for energy efficiency with an annual target of 100,000 homes to be upgraded to best achievable international standards;
  • Eliminating the most carbon intensive energy sources: ending the use of coal and peat for electricity generation and domestic heating as soon as possible; and
  • Reducing Fossil Fuel Import Dependence: progressively reducing the current level of Irish fossil and biofuels import bill of 6.5 billion euro per annum, and a concomitant integrating measure for future renewable energy.

Of paramount importance to the government is to 'keep the lights on'. Commenting on the this, Tomás Bradley, Planning & Environmental Policy Officer, noted that:

'this would appear to translate into ensuring a continuous level of supply as the primary task. However, An Taisce is arguing the imperative to reduce emissions drastically requires that demand reduction and energy efficiency take precedence over security of supply - supply at the level to which we have become accustomed. It should be a greater national priority to reduce electricity demand than to 'keep the lights on at all costs'.

Ireland, given its volatile energy position internationally should strongly support grounds for energy conservation and efficiency measures. An Taisce is calling for the Department of Communication, Energy & Natural Resources to petition the European Union and its members to agree a 45% energy saving target for 2030. It is critical that the urgency of necessary rapid and deep decarbonisation is appreciated by the public and how they can help achieve this.

In concluding, An Taisce stated the Energy Policy needs a strong focus on public engagement to increase the level of debate will be greatly enhanced by appreciating projected global climate and energy reality debate. Any transition to a low carbon future must be based on the reality of cumulative carbon budgets and be informed by the work of the IPCC and the monitoring of the EPA, otherwise short-term political deference to local preferences and short-term cost saving will in the long-term prove costly both socially and economically.

Download the submission here.