More support needed to drive renewables, energy chief warns
THE head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that government supports for renewable energy will be needed for the foreseeable future to drive a move away from fossil fuels.
IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol said wind and solar projects would have a "difficult time" competing with cheaper coal and gas.
He said suggestions that governments might reduce subsidies was a "major concern".
The Department of Climate Action and Environment is developing a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme, which is expected later this year, subject to clearing EU State Aid rules.
The ESB has suggested that supports be retained for wind, but that none be developed for solar due to falling costs.
The industry said unless a support scheme was introduced, development of solar farms would not go ahead.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Dr Birol said that last year, more than half of all new electricity supply globally was from renewables - more than coal, gas, oil and nuclear combined.
"The renewables are not a romantic story any more," he said. "It's a real business and it's happening. Renewables were the champion in 2015.
"It's true that in some instances solar or wind may be competitive enough vis-à-vis gas, coal or other traditional sources, but to generalise this is like a boomerang - it will come and hit you.
"If the government policies are removed, I think renewables will have a difficult time competing with gas and coal. We are expecting that subsidies for renewables will be increasingly needed for several years to come. This is a major concern for me." He said that in the UK, tax credits were available for wind generators with "huge" support in China for solar.
He noted that pledges made under the Paris Climate Agreement were not enough to limit global warming to 2C, and that policy supports were "very important" for renewables, but also for electric vehicles (EVs), and use of renewables in heat and transport.
"Where we see record sales of EVs, there are government supports for the cars, the infrastructure and giving priority to EVs in traffic.
"Strategies give incentives for car manufacturers. In their absence, nobody would go there. I believe car manufacturers will come up with a big revolution soon on EVs, hybrids and biofuels because they're all seeing the challenges the internal combustion engine is facing."
Read the interview in full