Ireland can’t cajole its way out of meeting commitments on energy, says expert

Failures to achieve targets in period up to 2020 are ‘ticking exchequer timebomb’

Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Ireland “won’t be able to talk or cajole its way out” of meeting legally-binding commitments on adopting renewable energy and on reducing carbon emissions targets, according to the energy expert Marie Donnelly.

Failures to achieve targets in the period up to 2020 are “a ticking exchequer time bomb”, the former head of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy has warned.

Speaking in advance of an address to an Irish wind energy conference on Thursday, Ms Donnelly said: “Without urgent action to promote rather than penalise renewables such as wind energy, Ireland faces a tough choice between multimillion euro fines or sending taxpayers’ money abroad to purchase emissions and/or renewables rights from 2020.”

“We need leadership now or we will pay a high price. When the bill comes in the door from Europe because we don’t make our targets, the recriminations will start,” she added.

The Dáil, the media and public would demand to know why Ireland was handing over hundreds of millions of euros of taxpayers’ money “and will get absolutely nothing in return”. Ireland knew what it needed to do “but we are procrastinating to the point of inaction”, she said.

While energy use from renewable sources was significant, a binding target of 16 per cent by 2020 was unlikely to be achieved, Ms Donnelly said. “It’s now 2018 and time is ticking by. It’s naive to think Ireland will get a soft ride on this – that the usual argument, ‘we’re just a small country on the edge of Europe’, will work.”

The rest of Europe saw Ireland as a rich country and would ask “why should we get away with it when we have the wind and other resources to easily achieve our target?”

In light of likely fines “a serious, objective and detailed plan” from the Government on how it is going to address climate change and eliminate fossil fuels use by 2050 was urgently needed, said Grattan Healy, chairman of the Irish Wind Farmers Association, which is organising the conference.

“We need an ‘energy future plan’ to 2050. It needs to be based on 100 per cent renewables. That would be a really exciting and positive future for this country; one the vast majority of our people could and would get behind,” he added.