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Minister White's speech at the launch of the Energy White Paper

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ALEX WHITE, TD

 

MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES

 

LAUNCH OF THE ENERGY WHITE PAPER

 

'IRELAND'S TRANSITION TO A LOW CARBON ENERGY FUTURE 2015-2030'

 

MANSION HOUSE, DUBLIN 16th DECEMBER 2015

 

 

Let me begin by thanking you, Aisling, for your very inspiring words.

 

When I met you and the members of the Centenary Girl Guides' Unit last month, it was obvious to me that we should ask you to bring your perspective to this event today.

 

Your words are a reminder to us of the high stakes involved in getting our energy policy right – and of the responsibility that we have to your generation and to future generations. Thank you very much.

 

Let me also record my thanks to Julie O'Neill, Chair of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, for agreeing to participate in today's event.

 

And I also want to share my appreciation of the work that has been done by the staff of my Department's energy division. Your skill, experience, insights, and professionalism have been instrumental in producing the important document that we are publishing today. I know that you will be equally committed to its implementation.

 

During this process I have been advised by the members of the Energy Policy Advisory Group, which I established in September 2014.

The members of the group are Professor John FitzGerald, formerly of the ESRI; Helen Donoghue, fellow of the Institute of International and European Affairs and formerly of DG Energy at the European Commission; and Brian Motherway, now head of energy efficiency at the International Energy Authority. I would like to extend my thanks to you.

 

Above all, let me acknowledge the contribution that has been made by the people who are in this room, but who are not on the stage.

 

This White Paper is the result of extensive consultation over the last 18 months or so. We have experienced an engagement of exceptional detail and quality.

So, while I don't expect everyone here to agree with everything in the document, I can say with confidence that this publication draws on the insights, concerns, and ambitions of all the stakeholders who are active in the energy debate.

 

We have strived to ensure that the White Paper will be a signal to even more of our citizens, that they should – and that they can – become involved in this important debate, and become agents of change.

 

Today's publication is the first post-COP21 expression of the practical work we intend to do – in the energy sector – to meet the ambitions set out in the historic agreement that was reached in Paris last weekend.

The White Paper represents a first – the first time that an Irish Government has pointed the way to the eventual elimination of fossil fuels from our energy system.

 

We can only achieve this by democratising energy policy and its implementation. Because meeting the challenge of global warming can no longer be confined to the realm of international treaties or Government decisions.

 

It will be about:

  • Changing the way you heat your house or business
  • Reassessing how you travel from A to B
  • Participating constructively in debates and decisions – sometimes difficult decisions – about the infrastructure needs of a low carbon Ireland
  • Aggressively cutting out waste, and investing in more efficient energy use
  • And encouraging our research community, scientists, entrepreneurs – and, indeed, our local communities – to seize the employment and business opportunities that will come as new low-carbon and no-carbon technologies develop and emerge.

This White Paper maintains the three core pillars of Ireland's energy policy, namely:

  • Sustainability
  • Security of Supply
  • And Competitiveness – leading to affordable energy.

It sets a course for an energy sector where the State will provide the supports that enable consumers to become active energy citizens. Our energy system is going to change from one that is almost exclusively led by Government and utilities. It will instead become one where individuals and communities are agents of change in the way Ireland generates, transmits, stores, conserves and uses energy. 

In over 90 proposed actions, the White Paper sets out how the energy transition will see accelerated and diversified renewable energy generation, and a renewed impetus on energy efficiency. This will be facilitated by strong regulation, effective markets, appropriate infrastructure, and deeper cooperation with our partners in Northern Ireland and the EU.

 

As I have repeatedly said during the consultation that has brought us to this day, our commitment to a sustainable energy system comes with a pledge to all our people, communities and businesses – and to the people who provide energy to our homes and workplaces: We will maintain stability, affordability, and security of supply as we make this transition to a low carbon energy future.

 

Our policy framework gives a new impetus to energy efficiency, which will be at the centre of our energy transition. New technologies like smart meters, heat pumps, and mobile connectivity will allow citizens to boost their own efficiency and save money by managing their energy consumption.

 

For its part, government will reduce barriers to the installation of energy efficiency systems in homes, businesses and public places.

 

We will also accelerate the development and diversification of renewable energy generation. Renewables currently account for almost 23% of our electricity generation.

 

This demonstrates real progress, and it has been achieved more cost-effectively than in almost any other European country. But eventually we will need to generate 100% of all our energy consumption from clean sources.

 

Onshore wind will continue to make a significant contribution. But the next phase of our energy transition will see the deployment of other technologies as solar, offshore wind and ocean technologies mature and become more cost-effective.

 

As the International Energy Agency acknowledges, there will continue to be a need for fossil fuels – particularly gas – to meet our energy needs well into this century. But, in the course of the transition, we will gradually reduce our dependence on the fossil fuels that currently dominate our energy mix.

 

The White Paper reaffirms an evidence-based approach to policy development and implementation, which will provide the confidence and certainty that investors need.

It places an emphasis on innovation as one of the central planks of energy policy. Ireland is well placed to make further economic and business advances through our many research institutes and facilities, and because so many technology companies – large and small, indigenous and foreign-owned – are located here.

 

The energy transition will create lasting business and employment opportunities, for existing players and new entrants. And we are committed to supporting those businesses, workers and communities who will make the transition away from older energy technologies – and move in the direction of new jobs, new technologies, and new opportunities.

 

We will not lose sight of the need to minimise and control costs for households, who expect affordable bills and protection from energy poverty, or for industry, which needs a competitive and job-friendly business environment.

 

Importantly, the White Paper also offers industry – and all stakeholders – the opportunity to contribute to policy development and implementation, including through a new National Energy Forum, which will maximise consensus on the measures needed to decarbonise our country.

 

I believe that all of us want to safeguard our environment for future generations, just as we all want – and expect – a secure supply of affordable energy. Making this happen will require us to change, and to work together, drawing on all our human goodwill and ingenuity to expedite this transition.

 

This White Paper provides a framework to enable each and every one of us to play our part in building a low carbon future, which is one of the most important and ambitious projects of our age.

 

It is a vision that can – and must – engage every energy citizen, every energy community, and every stakeholder in our energy future.

 

ENDS

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