RTÉ highlights one of the policy options, Ireland may need nuclear power, recommended by Forfás, the national board responsible for providing policy advice to Government on enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation in Ireland, in its latest report [full document here pdf file], but the report’s main focus is the Irish economy’s increasing dependency on oil and how to lessen the risks that dependency holds.The key finding of the report were –
– There is growing evidence to suggest that the era of a plentiful supply of conventional oil is approaching an end2. Various experts and groups have developed projections for when peak oil will occur. While there is a wide variation of estimates about the likely timing, most expert commentators believe that 10-15 years from now, conventional oil supply will no longer be capable of satisfying world demand at current prices. While this subject is clouded by a low level of quality data, there is near global consensus that the potential consequences of peak oil for governments, economies, businesses and indeed individual consumers should be considered now as it will take at least ten years to prepare for its onset.
– Ireland consumed nine million tonnes of oil in 2004, an amount that has doubled since 1990. In 2002, Ireland ranked 3rd highest among the EU-25 countries in terms of oil consumed per capita.[emphasis added]
– Electricity generation and transportation are the two main factors for Ireland’s high oil dependence. Ireland has relied considerably more on oil for electricity generation than most other EU countries and, as of 2002, had the 6th most oil dependent electricity generation system of the EU-25 countries. The amount of oil used for transportation in Ireland tripled between 1972 and 2002, leaving Ireland consuming at least 50 per cent more per capita than the average of the EU-25 by the end of the period4.
– Taking into account the Irish economy’s relative dependence on imported oil and the relative share of oil in total Irish energy consumption, Ireland is among the most sensitive to rising oil prices and therefore among the most vulnerable to a peak oil scenario.
And the policy options recommended in the report, as summarised –
Key Policy Considerations for Ireland
The findings of this study suggest that Ireland needs to develop a national strategy to prepare for the challenge of peak oil. The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is currently preparing a Green Paper setting out Ireland’s proposed medium to long term energy policy and this provides an opportunity to develop options for dealing with this challenge. Sweden has already taken a pro-active approach to the challenge of peak oil, putting in place a strategy designed to greatly reduce its remaining dependence on oil by 20205. Ireland also needs to consider pro-active measures.
An important consideration in the context of a peak oil scenario is the need for an EU energy policy that sets out a common co-operative approach to dealing with oil peaking. The European Commission recently launched a Green Paper that put forward proposals for a new comprehensive European energy policy, focusing on sustainability, competitiveness and security as the core principles6. In order to react to the challenges of high and volatile oil prices, increasing import dependency, strong growing global energy demand and global warming, the EU needs to have a clearly defined energy policy and Ireland should be fully supportive of this.
This report outlines a list of key policy options for Ireland that should be considered in developing a strategy on peak oil (see section 6). A summary of these options are outlined below.
– Ireland should undertake a number of initiatives to reduce the usage of oil in transportation, for example, by bringing about the replacement over time of the existing stock of vehicles with more fuel-efficient vehicles and the provision of alternative modes of transport, particularly public transport, that run on electricity rather than petroleum related fuels (e.g. electrified trams, trains and buses). The potential of using biofuels for transportation should also be investigated
– Ireland should assess options to address security of supply concerns that may arise in the context of peak oil. Options should include expanding domestic oil storage capabilities and contracting bilaterally with oil-producing countries that continue to have a surplus of production relative to their domestic requirements. Accelerating plans to develop more East-West electricity interconnection with the UK would also provide a significant degree of energy security, subject to the UK resolving its own security of energy supply problems.
– Ireland should consider increasing the use of renewable energy sources for electricity generation (such as wind, wave, tidal energy etc), maintaining the continued operation of Moneypoint (Ireland’s only coal fired power station). Although not economically feasible in the short to medium term, Ireland should consider the possibility of developing nuclear energy as a more long-term solution.[added emphasis]
– Ireland should adopt a proactive approach to energy efficiency, seeking to place Ireland at the leading edge of energy efficiency practices. The EU Energy Performance Building Directive (EPBD), which came into effect in January 2006 will provide a basis for assessing and improving energy usage in commercial and residential buildings that is intended to result in a more efficient use of electrical energy.
– Ireland should accelerate the implementation of the National Spatial Strategy in preparation for peak oil. Current spatial patterns in Ireland militate against the development of an efficient and effective public transport system. The development of regional gateways and hubs will play a key part in enabling urban communities to respond to the challenges of peak oil. Those communities that are adequately resourced in terms of public transport infrastructure will have greater choice in relation to how they respond.