Plan afoot to increase electric car numbers 40-fold
The Government wants to increase the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road more than 40-fold in just over four years.
The White Paper on Energy contains 90 actions including a target to have 50,000 EVs in place by 2050, up from just over 1,100 today, as part of an ambitious vision to move Ireland to a low carbon future by 2100.
A scrappage scheme for older taxis and a Green Bus fund for a more efficient public transport fleet are also proposed, along with a requirement to increase the amount of biofuels contained in petrol and diesel.
Energy Minister Alex White says he believes that Ireland will meet EU 2020 targets on renewable energy but stressed the transformation would require the State to continue to use oil and gas in the medium-term.
Fossil fuels would account for as much as 30pc of our energy sources by 2050 but he expected "extensive coverage" of the land with solar plans over the coming years.
He added he would deal with the issue of providing consent for gas to flow from the Corrib field "soon".
"It's critically important to know the White Paper is a framework for policy," he said.
"The transition will present Ireland with significant economic and employment opportunities, and bring wider benefits. I see it phasing out fossil fuels but phasing in renewable energy. There are no big bang announcements. People should look to the White Paper to show the Government will lead the change."
Work is already under way on a subsidy scheme for solar energy, due next year, and a consultation document on identifying suitable sites across the country for large-scale renewable energy projects will also be launched.
But many key questions around our future energy requirements remain unaddressed, including the role of fracking, nuclear, the coal-burning Moneypoint power station and peat.
There is also no policy as yet on encouraging community energy projects, or a payment scheme for small-scale producers, including households, seeking to sell excess power produced from renewables back to the national grid.
However, the White Paper does propose:
■ Developing a new model of funding domestic retrofits, making homes warmer and cheaper to heat, by using private finance.
■ Putting in place a national plan to improve energy efficiency across the public sector, to meet a 33pc reduction required by 2020.
■ Creation of a National Energy Forum to help shape and drive policy. Wind will account for some 80pc of all new renewables out to 2020.
■ An incentive to encourage the commercial sector to use renewable heat will be in place next year. The amount of biofuels in conventional petrol and diesel will increase.
■ A ramping up of education around energy, including guides on making savings and choosing the most efficient appliances.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the plan lacked urgency and that we should decarbonise our energy system no later than 2050 otherwise it would be left to our "great grandchildren".
Chambers Ireland said there was a need for a national debate on energy policy, while the Irish Wind Energy Association said it gave "clarity and certainty" for the sector.
The Irish Offshore Operators' Association, representing oil and gas producers, called for Government to "stimulate efforts" for further exploration to secure supply.