Energy Minister, Alex White T.D., today (Wednesday) said that the transition to a low-carbon society between now and 2050 was "one of the greatest projects of our age." Minister White was speaking in Dublin to a group of almost 300 'energy stakeholders' in the final public consultation session before the publication of an energy White Paper in the autumn. The audience included citizens' groups, academics, elected representatives, regulators and energy companies.
"All of us want to safeguard our environment for future generations. That means that we must expedite the transition to a low-carbon future for our own sake and for the sake of our children and grandchildren. This vision comes with a pledge to all our citizens, our communities, industry, and those who work to provide energy to our homes and workplaces, that policy will ensure certainty, stability and affordability as we make the transition to a low carbon future."
However, Minister White warned about the challenges of realising this vision. "We will be constrained by the availability of capital and other resources. Some of our decisions will involve costs as well as benefits. We will be presented with many difficult choices as we juggle the sometimes conflicting priorities of affordability, sustainability and energy security," he said.
Minister White said he wanted informed and engaged citizens to take an active role in the transition to a low-carbon society and economy. He pledged that community concerns about the development of new energy infrastructure would be dealt with sensitively in future. The forthcoming White Paper would "set out a new direction in which we will listen to citizens, respect their concerns and give them an ongoing opportunity to input into policy development and implementation. The onus will be on the State and industry to demonstrate the need for new projects and to clearly explain complex technical issues." He said communities that host energy infrastructure should receive "commensurate benefits."
Minister White said policy would aggressively target energy efficiency, which was one of the few elements of energy policy that is completely in our control. The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan has already led to €700 million in savings from reduced fossil fuel imports, he said. He also specifically highlighted the contribution of schools and children to energy savings through initiatives like the Green Schools Programme.
Turning to the renewables sector, Minister White said onshore wind had been at the centre of Ireland's renewable energy generation so far. "It has served us well, and it will continue to do so. But the next period of energy transition will also see the development of new commercial and late-stage solutions, which are likely to change the mix of renewables as technologies like solar PV, off-shore wind, and carbon capture and storage mature, and become more cost-effective."
The Minister noted the important contribution of existing policy initiatives such as the Bioenergy Action Plan and the Off-Shore Renewable Energy Development Plan, both published in 2014. He confirmed that the White Paper will outline a number of initiatives that will contribute to the achievement of Ireland's renewables electricity targets.
Minister White said employment opportunities would continue to arise from the development of new technologies to mitigate carbon emissions. He said his Department was working closely with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation "to launch the European Energy Innovation Hub to develop technologies and capture their enterprise and employment potential."
The Minister noted the importance of improved inter-connectivity during the transition process, including through projects like the North-South transmission line project. He said this interconnectivity would be facilitated by the recently-initiated EU Energy Union initiative. Along with ongoing cooperation with fellow member states in projects like the North Seas Countries Offshore Grid Initiative, this would ensure that Ireland's energy transition was steady and stable.
Notes for Editors
The full text of Minister White's speech is available at the Speeches section of the website.
At the 28th May working group of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Dublin, Ireland reiterated its commitment to playing its part in the global effort to cut carbon emissions. Most notably it was stated that "we are aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 80%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors and are aiming for a carbon neutral approach in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, while at the same time ensuring that our capacity for sustainable food production is not compromised."