Though it’s nearly 40 years since Ireland’s anti-nuclear movement held a festival at Carnsore Point in Wexford — Ireland’s Woodstock, social historians assure us — to protest at plans to build a nuclear power plant there, we still import around 90% of our energy needs. Some of this energy is generated at nuclear plants in Britain, allowing some of us to mix virtue and hypocrisy in a peculiarly Irish way just as we do on neutrality. We are happy to enjoy the security and prosperity made possible by Europe’s energy and peace, but take what we imagine is the high moral ground by refusing to even discuss building a nuclear plant or that we might have a moral obligation to help defend that peace. In the 38 years since Christy Moore topped the Carnsore bill, there have been three significant incidents at the world’s 444 nuclear plants. As of May, 63 nuclear plants were under construction in 15 countries. Since then Britain decided to build one at Hinkley Point where 7% of Britain’s energy will be generated. Some of it may even be exported to Ireland. Two years ago renewable energy contributed 7.8% of Ireland’s final energy demand, almost halfway towards the 16% obligation agreed under the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED). Nearly half of renewable energy came from wind — 47% — or bioenergy at 42%. The balance came from hydro, geothermal or solar. The very low return from hydro suggests it is time to look at the movement gathering pace around the world, especially in America, dedicated to restoring rivers by removing pointless hydro schemes. We need to build around 25,000 houses a year to meet demand. That is a pretty challenging figure but, in the context of the climate change and energy security, modest enough. Would it be too much to hope that, say, solar energy panels be made obligatory in these houses, thereby killing two birds with one stone? Over to you ministers Naughten and Coveney — let’s have some long-term, joined up planning even if that means facing down the powerful lobbies who would argue that this kind of measure is too expensive.
Irish Examiner 25th Oct 2016 read more »