Denis Duff: Tony Lowes (Letters, October 9th) asks whether we could have had a “secure balance of genuine renewable energy sources as we transitioned to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, one of Extinction Rebellion’s three demands”, had the £22 billion cost of Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant been used instead for renewable energy? The evidence to date suggests that the answer to this question is an emphatic “no”. Germany, for example, has spent an estimated €200 billion on renewables since 2000 and yet their emissions from electricity have not budged in the past decade and show no tendency to approach net zero. The irony is that Germany’s emissions from electricity would already be at net zero if they had instead spent that €200 billion on nuclear energy. Unfortunately, Ireland may be about to repeat Germany’s mistakes. The Government’s Climate Action Plan 2019 envisages renewable electricity infrastructure with an estimated cost approaching €30 billion by 2030 and yet projects emissions from power generation to fall to only 30 per cent of their current level at best and will require a 25 per cent increase in gas-fired power plant to ensure security and quality of supply. And yet nuclear energy will not be a realistic option for Ireland until around 2030, when suitably small and affordable nuclear plants have proven themselves commercially and technically. There is a sensible compromise available to Ireland, however, if we want to reach our environmental targets as quickly as possible and at reasonable cost. This entails the full implementation of our ambitious Climate Action Plan 2019 to allow us to meet our 2030 EU renewable energy targets while also planning to introduce small reactors from 2031 to replace the gas-fired plant. Our research shows that this compromise would be environmentally responsible, effective and affordable. While nuclear energy is not the most popular technology in Ireland, there is no credible existing alternative that can allow us to eliminate emissions. We should plan to use nuclear energy unless and until a superior alternative solution to the climate crisis becomes available, and it is only then that we can afford to be selective in our choice of solution to the current climate crisis.
Irish Times 10th Oct 2019 read more »