Michael McDowell: State’s energy policy generated by pie-in-the-sky politics

Unachievable targets on renewable energy erode democratic trust and cohesion

‘Airily predicting that Ireland would somehow get by or muddle through with a mix of solar, wind and tidal power was always wrong-headed.’ Photograph: Ben Curtis/PA

‘Airily predicting that Ireland would somehow get by or muddle through with a mix of solar, wind and tidal power was always wrong-headed.’ Photograph: Ben Curtis/PA

It has been “bleedin’ obvious” that Ireland would need to bridge the electricity generating gap with gas-powered generation for the foreseeable future. When I was a member of the Oireachtas committee dealing with energy during the last Dáil, I repeatedly sought acceptance of that fact – and its implications – by departmental and State agency witnesses and by some of my fellow Oireachtas members who seemed to think that this obvious truth could be wished away.

Eamon Ryan was in the forefront of those on the committee who insisted that Ireland should by law prohibit any further offshore gas exploration. With dwindling gas supplies from our existing discoveries, we are being forced into an ever-tightening grip of imported gas dependency by reason of Ryan’s short-sighted and irrational desire to throw shapes in environmental terms rather than face up to some of the short-term realities for a small country which has eschewed nuclear power. He was not alone.

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