We need urgent national debate on future energy policy – White
ENERGY Minister Alex White has warned that the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East could have a detrimental effect on the price we pay for fossil fuels.
Mr White said Europe "is highly dependent on the imports of oil and particularly gas from Russia" and stated "the prospect of a period or periods when supply might be constrained cannot be ignored".
Discussing the Government's Green Paper on future energy policy, Mr White said energy markets were "in a state of flux".
He noted the "significant change" in the global energy landscape due to hydraulic fracturing in the US, and the "dramatic increase" in demand from countries like China and India.
He warned Ireland was too dependent on importing energy created externally, and said this money "would be better spent at home".
"In 2012, we in Ireland spent €6,500,000,000 importing energy. That's a huge sum of money leaving our country, and we all pay for it.
"Not only is the money leaving our pockets – it is also leaving our economy. That money could be better spent at home – it could invigorate the economic and social recovery that is the key focus for the Government over the next two years."
Mr White gave a number of recommendations, including procuring gas from the Corrib field, and using resources such as wind, water, waste and solar power.
He added: "When we conserve energy by being more energy efficient, and when we use cleaner energy, we reduce Ireland's emissions of harmful greenhouse gases.
"That's not just an investment in our environment; it's also an investment in the lives of our children and the world they will inherit from us."
Pointing to the EirGrid Grid25 project, which would see the erection of pylons across the country, Mr White said: "The extraction and movement of energy has long conditioned our landscape – it has had its impacts on our woods and our bogs, and in creating landmarks like the lakes at Turlough Hill and the Poolbeg Stacks.
"The question now is how much more visible should this part of our landscape be?"
He said the Green Paper sets out that energy policy will remain underpinned by sustainability, security and competitiveness.
"The question is how best to balance these. Involving all citizens in debates on energy and climate change is central to policy development," he added.
"In developing balanced and far reaching policies on areas such as grid development, the use of wind resources and streamlining public consent and permit procedures, it is important that past lessons are learnt and public concerns are addressed," he said.
He said the country was at an "energy cross-roads" and faced choices about the country's future.
"The road we choose must address all of these needs. Together we must choose the route to a new energy for Ireland," he said.
Mr White asked for public submissions to be made to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources by Thursday.