Ireland aims to phase out fossil fuels by 2100

Energy policy in new White Paper builds on ambition of Paris agreement, says Minister

Moneypoint generating station which is to close in 2025: an alternative should be decided by 2020. Photograph: Neil Warner

Moneypoint generating station which is to close in 2025: an alternative should be decided by 2020. Photograph: Neil Warner

 

Ireland will not use any fossil fuels by the end of the century, a new Government White Paper has predicted.

The White Paper on Energy was launched by Minister for Communications and Energy Alex White yesterday. Mr White said the policy built on the ambition of the Paris agreement on global climate change which was formally ratified last weekend. The paper sets out the long-term goals for energy use in Ireland.

Mr White said Ireland was still largely dependent on fossil fuels, but that situation would radically change in the future.

Fossil fuels currently comprise 92 per cent of energy use here. Mr White said that by 2050 the carbon footprint would fall by 80-95 per cent and Ireland would be wholly fossil free by the end of the century.

The White Paper sets out a wide range of solutions for replacing fossil fuels as a primary source of energy.

Range of measures

The Minister said several times there was “no big bang solution”, but rather a range of measures. These include a substantial expansion of solar power, primarily through solar farms, the increased use of bio-energy (including biofuel crops) and tapping the potential of ocean and tide energy.

The main source of renewables for the foreseeable future will be wind farms. Addressing the controversy over the location of wind farms, Mr White said the vast majority of the projects had been established with no opposition from local communities. Wind energy will still comprise more than 80 per cent of renewable energy.

There was no definite view expressed on nuclear power or on fracking (hydraulic fracturing). The Minister said he would await the outcome of an evaluation being conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency before making any decision on fracking.

Similarly, on nuclear power, he said he would await the outcome of an evaluation.

Electric vehicles

Commitments were also given to increasing the number of electric vehicles in use. The paper refers to the 2020 target of 50,000 vehicles, but the Minister accepted the take-up of electric cars had been “disappointing” so far, with just 700 in use.

He accepted there was no chance the target would be reached. He said few countries had met their target and also pointed to the effect of the recession. The recession was also blamed for the lack of resources available to retrofit homes.

Similarly, another major component, a “deep retrofitting” of 1.4 million homes to improve energy efficiency, will need huge investment. It will cost an average of €20,000 per home or €35 billion overall, the paper states.

The largest power station in the country, Moneypoint, is due to be decommissioned as a coal-burning plant by 2025. The paper said a plan for alternatives must be decided by 2020. There was a general welcome to the paper from political parties. Some environmental campaigners said a 2100 date for eliminating fossil fuels was not ambitious enough.