Ireland’s Ambitious Wind-Energy Plans

Author:REVE     Source:REVE     Click:264     Publish time:2013/4/7 10:53:02

Plans to pepper the Irish midlands with giant wind turbines exporting the electricity they generate to Britain are not driven only by Tory concerns about a popular revolt in the English shires against wind-energy projects. They are part of a much wider agenda to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and oil.

Everyone remembers with a shiver when Russian energy giant Gazprom cut off the gas supply to Ukraine on January 1st, 2009: and then Vladimir Putin extended the ban to gas being piped through the former Soviet state to Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria Romania, Bosnia, Serbia and Macedonia.

In freezing winter weather, Slovakia declared a “national emergency”, Austria and Italy reported that their supplies of Russian gas had fallen by 90 per cent, and France and Germany were also hit by Putin using gas as a political weapon. The London Independent heralded it as a “new cold war in Europe”.

The EU imports one-third of its gas from Russia, of which 80 per cent is pumped through Ukraine. In 2007, four EU member states – Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania – were 100 per cent dependent on Russian gas, while France and Germany were its largest importers, accounting for almost half of the EU total.

The rest comes primarily from Norway, which is perceived as highly reliable, and Algeria, which isn’t. But the EU is so dependent on imports of both oil and gas, it needs secure supplies. A proposed pipeline to Europe from Iran is not on the agenda because of sanctions against Tehran relating to its nuclear programme.

Hence the importance of the Supergrid, an EU initiative to integrate renewable energy production across Europe – to “decarbonise” electricity generation, allow power to be traded between one country and another, strengthen energy security and create opportunities for European companies to export their know-how.

The core elements of the Supergrid would consist of concentrations of huge offshore wind turbines in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Irish Sea. These would ultimately be supplemented by vast arrays of solar-power generators in the Sahara and by wave- or tidal-energy installations, now being tested at a micro level.

A report in 2010 produced by the European Climate Change Forum, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the International Institute for Applied System Analysis and global accountants PwC even put forward a realistic roadmap to achieve “100 per cent renewable electricity” in Europe and North Africa by 2050.

Since 2009, the EU has been committed to boosting the share of renewables in the energy mix to 20 per cent by 2020, both to make a contribution to combating climate change and cut back on Europe’s dependence on imported oil and gas. Both Ireland and Britain face real challenges in meeting their targets under this programme.

Keywords:Ireland’s Ambitious Wind-Energy Plans
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