Climate change and fossil fuel dependence are the biggest and most defining interrelated challenges of our time. We are currently experiencing an environmental and resource crisis that places human development at a crossroads. The consequences of climate change and fossil fuel extraction and combustion are becoming increasingly visible and are being exacerbated by unsustainable economic growth. The effects of these challenges are, and will continue to be, multi-faceted and systemic. These challenges, and the necessary development of policies to address them, are becoming a reality with which society has to learn to live.
Given the obvious urgency of climate change as outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013) - Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), an energy policy for Ireland should be providing both mitigation and adaption measures for climate change with associated targets. This is essential to reduce risk and uncertainty. By acting to significantly reduce Ireland’s dependence on coal, oil, gas and peat and their greenhouse gas emissions, across all sectors, thereby increasing the State's resilience and capacity to survive in a time of energy and climate uncertainty.
However, 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 an average surface temperature 2ºC above pre-industrial levels.
An Taisce has called for a national energy policy for Ireland which would be primarily concerned with how energy consumption will be reduced and ensure all citizens are conscious of energy savings and how to secure them. Of course any policy for energy cannot be viewed in a vacuum and should be developed as 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.
Ireland, given its volatile energy position internationally should strongly support grounds for energy conservation and efficiency measures. To this end, it is recommended that the Department of Communication, Energy & Natural Resources petition the European Union and its members to agree a 45% energy saving target for 2030.
Of paramount importance to the Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources is to 'keep the lights on'. This would appear to translate into ensuring a continuous level of supply as the primary task. It is argued by An Taisce 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'.
Energy Saving is Ireland’s New 'Fuel'.
For more information on energy, see An Taisce's submission to the Green Paper on Energy Policy - Click Here