Business Irish

Thursday 22 March 2018

Political will must be there to wean ourselves off oil

Thomas Molloy

Thomas Molloy

RISING oil prices are likely to be a fact of life in the years ahead with even BP estimating that the planet has less than 50 years' worth of oil hidden under the surface.

This is a serious threat to countries including Ireland, which depends on oil and gas for 80pc of its energy needs. But the good news is that the technology already exists to reduce the country's dependency on fossil fuels.

While government agencies such as Bord na Mona, Coillte and Bord Gais all have ambitious plans to begin generating significant amounts of electricity from renewable resources, the 'wish list' due to be presented to Government by Siemens in the coming weeks deserves careful consideration if we are to secure our energy needs in the years ahead.

While Siemens is hardly a disinterested party, the German company doubtlessly hopes to sell Ireland much of the technology needed to reduce our addiction to fossil fuels, it also has a wealth of experience from its home market where regions such as Schleswig Holstein (a place not unlike Ireland in size) is already generating 25pc of all electricity from windmills and solar power.

Siemens wants the Government here to develop a 40-year strategy that would include plans to plug Ireland into a European and global grid for power generated by renewable energy and hopes that we will soon begin exporting power abroad.

A global grid, still only a pipe dream, would allow us to use energy from Asia and the Americas while people there sleep and vice versa.

Siemens also wants to see the Government start pushing the various state-owned transport companies to start using hybrid buses, electric trains, electric cars and other energy-efficient modes.

While the dream of electric trains may seem utopian to those who live in parts of the country without any trains at all or smelly diesel engines dating back to the 1960s, it still makes sense to begin thinking strategically if large companies are to be enticed to Ireland and invest the massive sums needed for capital intensive energy projects.

For this to happen, the company wants the Government to modify the public procurement process to take into account life-cycle costs and the like.

Whether this will happen in the current climate is anybody's guess but the experience in other countries is that it can be done and the technology already exists to slash dependency on oil and gas.

Whether the political will matches the engineers' ingenuity to overcome the certain rise in energy costs remains to be seen.

Irish Independent

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