Irish energy white paper says it will take 100 years to go carbon-free

16 Dec 2015

The Irish Government and the Minister for Energy Alex White has today (16 December) published the Government’s white paper on our aim of becoming a carbon-free society, but it will take us nearly 100 years.

Minister White had last week attended the now-finalised COP21 talks, in which he revealed that the Irish Government was to reveal its energy white paper today, and it seems that today’s release shows that in the short term the priority is getting the environmental message out.

According to the paper, entitled Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030, the Government envisions that, if it has its way, Ireland’s energy-related carbon emissions will be reduced by between 80pc and 95pc, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050.

However, it will take us another 50 years after that to become entirely free of fossil fuel energy, the paper says, with expectations that it will “fall to zero or below by 2100″.

This seems likely due to the stark reality that, by that stage, it’s unlikely there will be many fossil fuel energy sources to go around, with various expectations predicting that oil supplies will have significantly dwindled by the end of the century.

Currently, Ireland is trying to get its toe across the line for 2020, with our legal obligation under the European Union (EU) putting us down to have 16pc of our energy generated by renewables in just over four years’ time, which we are only halfway towards reaching.

‘In future years, we will look back and wonder what took us so long’

Among the 90 Government actions laid out by the plan, one of the most significant is the expected establishment of a National Energy Forum, which will work on the renewable energy policy measures.

There will be the establishment of a new support scheme for the development of renewable energy technologies, as well as the eventual rollout of a new renewable heat incentive scheme.

Further grants and tax relief will also be amped up to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles (EV), which will also include a scrappage scheme for taxi drivers to replace their cars with EVs.

“We will find ourselves thinking in a new way about how we use energy in our homes, in our schools, at work, and when we travel,” Minister White said at the launch of the paper this morning.

“The changes are not something to be feared. In future years, we will look back and wonder what took us so long. We will look on our old energy behaviours and realise that they were no longer sustainable.

“And we will recognise the positive benefits of our actions for the environment, for the reduction of greenhouse gases, and for addressing extreme weather events. This white paper will change the way we live, very much for the better.”

Sunset in Killarney mountains image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic