Energy on an island nation

» By | Published 17 Aug 2012

A good newspaper is “a nation talking to itself”, playwright Arthur Miller once said. If so, then the conversation being played out on the pages of the agenda-setting Irish Times shows a nation that has not made up its mind on its energy future.

Irish wind energy recently made the headlines with the announcement that a 5000MW wind farm was planned for the midlands of the country, with the UK market in mind. ‘Ireland to the rescue – Plan to flow 3GW of Irish onshore wind power to the UK via consented grid connection can help Britain reach its 2020 targets’ said the cover story of energy magazine Recharge.

But things are not so cut-and-dried within the country. Eddie O’Connor, the man behind Mainstream Renewable Power and a similar plan to sell Irish wind to the UK, is one of the most vocal of defenders of wind energy on the letters page in what is known as the paper-of-record, the Irish Times. Letter writers come up with statements like “(Denmark) is exporting its excess wind energy to neighbouring countries at a financial loss”. O’Connor points out the inaccuracies in these letters, but cannot respond to each one.

Even without the green-ink brigade, the energy debate is constant in the paper. This week alone there have been two major articles on energy, one entitled Reaping the rewards of wind power, the other Green movement needs to embrace nuclear energy. Both articles are going over well-worn themes, that of the potential of wind energy and the possibilities of nuclear energy in Ireland.

Ireland long ago rejected nuclear energy, and the population is hardly growing fonder of it by the day. But it has yet to reach its full potential in renewable energy, even though on Global Wind Day this year it sourced 28% of its energy from wind. Despite being near the top of the charts in terms of installed wind energy capacity per capita (albeit with a population of only 4.5 million) and wind share of total electricity consumption, Ireland still imports the majority of its energy in fossil fuel form. The country has not ventured into exporting energy outside the small domestic market, until now.

Perhaps the plan to provide Britain with energy, with a projected 40,000 jobs created and profits to be made, will make up a few more minds on the subject of whether Ireland really will be the Emerald Isle in the future. As O’Connor says, “We will create a whole new industry in this country. We will be world leaders, I have no doubt about that.”

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Categories: Wind energy