Energy White Paper sets ambitious course for a carbon-free energy sector

Minister for Energy, Alex White TD at the launch of the Energy W

16/12/2015 NO REPRO FEE, MAXWELLS DUBLIN Minister for Energy, Alex White TD at the launch of the Energy White Paper in Dublin’s Mansion House. PIC: NO FEE, MAXWELLPHOTOGRAPHY.IE

  • First time an Irish Government points the way to eventual elimination of fossil fuels
  • White envisages a low carbon energy system by 2050, becoming carbon-free by 2100
  • More than 90 actions to achieve Ireland’s energy transition
  • Citizens will think and act differently on energy in homes, schools, and at work
  • Brings huge potential for the economy, innovation and future employment

Minister for Energy Alex White today (Wednesday) published an energy White Paper, which identifies actions that will reduce Ireland’s energy-related carbon emissions by between 80% and 95%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050. Minister White said that Ireland would eventually have to generate 100% of our energy needs from clean sources.

Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030 says that high-carbon fuels like peat and coal will give way to lower-carbon or renewable alternatives in the short to medium term, before fossil fuels are largely replaced by renewable energy sources by 2050. Greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector will “fall to zero or below by 2100.”

“For the first time an Irish Government has set its course on the eventual elimination of fossil fuels from our energy system,” Minister White said, speaking at the launch in Dublin’s Mansion House. “We will only achieve this ambitious degree of decarbonisation by engaging all citizens in energy policy and its implementation. Meeting the challenge of global warming can no longer be confined to the realm of international treaties or Government decisions. It is about changing the way we heat our homes and businesses. It is about reassessing how we travel. It is about participating in decisions about the infrastructure needs of a low carbon Ireland.

“I would encourage everyone to read this White Paper and see how you can play your part in the transition to a low-carbon energy future. Over the next two to three decades, we will be changing the way we live – and changing it for the better.”

To deliver a low carbon future, Minister White said that we need to progressively reduce waste and unnecessary energy use. “The State will provide the supports to enable energy consumers to become active energy citizens. Our energy system is going to change from one that is almost exclusively led by Government and utilities, to one where individuals and communities will increasingly be participants in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation and distribution. It’s a story that will impact on all our people.”

The White Paper sets out how Ireland’s energy transition will be facilitated by an accelerated and diversified programme of renewable energy generation, and an increased focus on energy efficiency, facilitated by innovative financing. It promises strong regulation, effective markets, appropriate infrastructure and deeper European cooperation. It heralds a new focus on citizens and communities as agents of change in the way Ireland generates, transmits, stores, conserves and uses energy. And it sets out actions to enable people to participate in energy-related decisions, including decisions about grid and renewable energy infrastructure.

Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030 sets out over 90 Government actions, e.g.:

  • A National Energy Forum will be established to maximize and maintain consensus on policy measures required to achieve the energy transition.
  • Citizen engagement measures will include support for local community participation in renewable energy projects; explore the scope to provide market support for micro-generation; a new framework for communities to share the benefits of new energy infrastructure; and the facilitation of national grid access for smaller-scale renewable generators.
  • On energy efficiency, there will be improved domestic grant schemes and affordable financing options for energy efficiency upgrades; enhanced advice services for consumers and business; a new affordable energy strategy in 2016; strengthened building regulations; the extension of the energy efficiency obligation scheme to electricity and gas systems operators; a new public service energy efficiency plan in 2016; and enhanced energy education programmes.
  • There will be a new support scheme for the development of renewable energy technologies; a policy framework for the development of combined heat and power projects; a new renewable heat incentive scheme; the development of a comprehensive heating strategy; a new policy framework for district heating; and a new regulatory framework for the development of geothermal energy.
  • The planning and development of larger-scale renewable electricity infrastructure will be guided by the publication of a Renewable Electricity Policy and Development Framework.
  • Transport measures will include grants and tax relief to encourage the adoption of electric and gas vehicles; a support framework for alternative transport fuel infrastructure; a scrappage scheme to replace older taxis with electric vehicles; a green bus fund; and support for rail energy efficiency.
  • The transition will be supported by measures to assist the development of energy storage; and an economic assessment of biogas potential.

Minister White said policy would ensure certainty, stability and affordability during the transition, which would present Ireland with significant economic and employment opportunities.

“Harnessing the enthusiasm and creativity of our research community will bring wider benefits to our economy. It will boost the employment and business opportunities available to indigenous high-tech sectors and Irish-based foreign companies alike.”

Minister White concluded by reiterating that every citizen should read this White Paper as it sets out the changes that we will all make in the coming five, ten, and twenty years.

“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. 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.”