Government should aim to make Ireland fossil fuel free 200x150

Friends of the Earth has called on the Government to set a goal of Ireland being fossil fuel free by 2050. The environmental campaigning group made the call on the final day of the Government’s public consultation on Ireland’s future energy policy. The deadline for written submissions is 5.30pm. The Government has promised there will now be an opportunity for the public to discuss the policy options in regional workshops before a White Paper is developed.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth Policy and Campaigns Manager, Kate Ruddock, said

“This is a golden opportunity for the Government to set out a positive vision for Ireland to be fossil-fuel free by 2050. We are rich in renewable energy resources. Economic opportunity and environmental sustainability can go hand-in-hand in our transition to a low-carbon economy”

“What’s essential now is that ministers and officials really engage the public in a meaningful debate. Countries like Germany and Denmark have developed a sense of national purpose around the transition to renewable energy and, crucially, high levels of community ownership of renewables, which gives local people a real stake in the process.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to develop an energy policy that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The main elements are:

– A positive vision of an Ireland that is fossil fuel free by 2050.
– An action plan to have 100% of electricity and heat coming from renewables by 2040, with the renewable projects predominantly owned by local people and communities (over 50% of German renewables are already community owned)
– All renewable technologies should be supported, including wind, solar, CHP, ocean, and bio energy. Electricity from all renewable sources should have a fair and secure price for sale to the Grid.
– A ban on fracking and an end to offshore oil and gas exploration.
– An end to the burning of coal or peat for electricity generation by 2020 at the latest. Moneypoint to close, and all subsides for peat-fired generation to end.
– A massive programme of retrofitting homes to save energy, cut household bills and end fuel poverty. Subsidies to kickstart this investment can come from the carbon tax and the local property tax. A “pay-as-you-save” scheme for householders can contribute but we cannot delay the investment any longer.

Oisin Coghlan, Friends of the Earth Director, said:

“Investing in our homes and public buildings to reduce how much energy it takes to heat them is a win-win-win. It cuts energy bills and carbon emissions and creates much-needed jobs in the construction sector.

“Despite good work from the SEAI we are still only tinkering at the edges. We need a Government-led programme as ambitious as Ardnacrusha and as comprehensive as the installation of water meters. Current efforts to develop a pay-as-you-save scheme seem to be dangerously stalled and the new Minister needs to review them.”

Following this written consultation period, Friends of the Earth is urging the new Minister to undertake a fully participative public consultation process – enabling, and challenging community groups, civil society organisations, businesses and individuals to grapple with the energy choices we face. Communities are often accused of taking an ‘anti’ stance. However, very often, they respond to individual developments, having had little opportunity to engage with the policy choices that underpin them.  For example, it is not a choice between more wind energy or no more wind energy. It is a more likely a choice between more renewables, fracking or nuclear.

To support groups/individuals in their submissions to the Green Paper process, Friends of the Earth organized an afternoon workshop for the members of the Environmental Pillar and a diverse mix of people active on the energy issues, from those concerned about fracking or wind or pylons to those supporting renewables and community ownership.  The discussion, moderated by a professional facilitator, was challenging yet inspiring and we urge the Minister to roll out a similarly participative process across the country over the coming weeks.

Friends of the Earth has coordinated the development of submissions to the written consultation from two coalitions:

–          The Environmental Pillar , the policy network of national environmental NGOs. Their submission can be found here.

–           A newly formed community energy grouping.  Their submission can be found here.