Minister Alex White offers citizens a “genuine stake” in energy policy decision-making
Energy Minister Alex White today (Wednesday) said citizens must be given a genuine stake in energy policy decision-making if Ireland is to succeed in meeting its renewable energy targets. He said he would address this in a White Paper on energy policy, which is being prepared for publication later this year.
Speaking at the annual Energy Show, organised by the Sustainable Energy Association of Ireland, Minister White said his ultimate goal was the decarbonisation of Ireland’s energy production and use.
“Most Irish citizens are concerned about global warming, and they welcome the idea of a cleaner energy system. But many also have deep concerns about the impact this could have on their lives. So we must ensure that all our citizens feel they have a genuine stake in the energy decisions that affect them. It is up to us – Government, industry and advocates – to make this happen by maximising the opportunities for citizens to participate in the transition to a carbon-free future. We can help address this, both through energy efficiency and through community involvement in renewable energy initiatives. To this end, the Energy White Paper, which I will publish later this year, will include a policy framework to support communities in these two areas,” he said.
Minister White said there had been an impressive grassroots response to schemes like the Better Energy grant support programme, which provides funding for retrofitting to improve energy efficiency, particularly for people experiencing energy poverty. The programme is set to support 2,300 jobs in 2015.
Minister White said: “We need to do more to engage householders, so that we can deliver the scale of retrofit needed over the coming years. This challenge informed my recent decision to increase the levels of grant aid available under the Better Energy Homes scheme. My department is now looking at ways to complement grant aid with affordable financing. The work carried out so far reveals that people have an understandable reluctance to take on additional debt. So the success of this approach will require incentives to attract their interest and drive action. It is likely that this will require a combination of Exchequer-funded grants and consumer financing.”
Minister White said Ireland was more than half-way towards meeting its 2020 target of meeting 40% of electricity demand though renewable resources. Between €1.4bn and €1.6bn is being invested in sustainable energy technologies and services in Ireland each year. Over 250,000 homes have undergone energy efficiency upgrades since 2009, and Ireland is fourth in the world for the proportion of wind power on the electricity system.