Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Energy Michael Moynihan has said there is a “unique opportunity” in the development of a new Energy White Paper for the government to outline a clear roadmap to maximise all renewable energy sources into the future. Deputy Moynihan has also warned of “the economic impact and cost for consumers of missing this opportunity to set achievable but ambitious goals for the country.”
Deputy Moynihan has said: “Ireland is still excessively dependent on energy importation to power homes and businesses. This is a risky position that we find ourselves in given the changing energy environment globally.
“Fianna Fáil’s energy policy launched this year clearly laid out a roadmap to ensure a balanced and secure energy mix. We questioned the need for plans to build industrial sized wind farms due to the negative impact on the local communities. These are legitimate issues for us to raise and must be addressed in the forthcoming White Paper on Energy.
“Given wind energy’s unstable and unpredictable nature of production, further reliance on wind energy may undermine the stability of our national grid. We should be branching out and expanding our renewable portfolio where possible because wind does not guarantee security of supply. As set out in our policy, we need to reap the benefit of all renewables such as off-shore wind, biomass, tidal and solar. We can set achievable and ambitious goals in this area.
“PV (photovoltaic) solar panel technology had become much more cost effective, falling by as much as 70% in the last few years. Compared to wind farms, the technology potentially offers some advantages to rural Ireland.
“There is flexibility where to locate panels, so the visual impact can be minimised. Meanwhile, solar energy is generated more gradually and can feed into the national grid in a more controlled way. Much smaller powerlines can be used underground with shorter distances to cover.
“Fianna Fáil supports the use of Solar PV that forms part of a diversified renewable portfolio that will help us meet our EU targets and reduce our carbon footprint predicated on community buy in from the start. This is an absolute must. I believe we can derive real benefits from consumers and present ourselves as a global leader in re-shaping our energy model.
“There is currently no REFIT (renewable energy feed in tariff) for solar power in Ireland, but there is widespread expectation that an announcement will soon be made by Government to support the development of large-scale (5MW) projects in the renewable energy white paper.
“This would incentivise the expansion of this renewable but community consensus is really important. Farmers and landowners cannot be left in the dark. Farmers have legitimate concerns about allowing industry use of their land to generate solar energy. One example is whether land under solar equipment will be eligible for direct farm payments. Secondly, many European countries have planning laws that necessitate that land between and underneath PV solar panel projects must be available for small livestock grazing.
“With Ireland obligated to meet the EU target of 16% for all energy to be generated from renewable sources by 2020, such issues need to be clarified to ensure that there is complete buy in by all parties in rolling out this renewable technology. We can be bold and strategic in our energy goals. The forthcoming White Paper on Energy will be an important test for the government. It needs to set out a clear vision that the energy sector and consumers can get behind,” concluded Deputy Moynihan.