Business Irish

Friday 22 August 2014

Future energy: what's hot air – and what's not

Published 13/05/2014 | 02:30

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What are our options to provide energy in the future?

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COAL

Cheap US coal imported to the EU makes electricity production less expensive, but it is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Moneypoint power station produces 17pc of our electricity needs, but will reach the end of its life by 2025. A decision will have to be taken on whether Moneypoint should be refitted to continue as a coal plant.

Peat and biomass

Customers pay a levy to subsidise the cost of burning peat, which will expire by 2019. Around 22pc of fuel at some peat plants is bio-mass, or energy crops. Should the peat subsidy remain in place, and the fuel be used?

Natural gas

There has been a drop in gas consumption, but the Corrib field due to come on stream in 2015 will enhance security of supply.

Nuclear

There is ban on nuclear energy, including granting permission for plants or approving their use. Plants are very expensive, often running over budget, and there is the issue of waste. The current technology is not suitable for Ireland, but smaller reactors will come on stream, and could be used.

Microgeneration

Encouraging homeowners to install domestic wind turbines and solar panels would allow them to become energy self-sufficient, and receive payments for exporting excess power back to the national grid.

Heating

Solar heating for water, heat pumps and woodchip boilers has been relatively successful, but penetration is low.

Transport

The sector is 96pc reliant on oil, and accounts for 19pc of all greenhouse gas emissions. More efficient cars have helped, and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), also called propane or butane, could be used to power transport fleets, along with biofuels.

Upgrading the national grid This is needed to allow more renewables on the system, but the projects are controversial because they involve construction of high-voltage power lines.

Interconnection

Part of the grid upgrade, these high-capacity power lines allow us to trade power with other countries. The East-West interconnector is already in place between Ireland and the UK, but more would enhance the security of supply.

Irish Independent

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