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Why Ireland won't be turning to nuclear energy anytime soon

Alex White talked energy and climate change with TheJournal.ie yesterday.

ENERGY MINISTER ALEX White believes there is a risk that Ireland will fall short of its renewable energy targets in the coming years.

White said that on current projections the country could fail to ensure that 16% of its total energy needs are coming from renewable sources by 2020. In 2013 Ireland had met less than half that requirement.

alex white gif

In a wide-ranging interview with TheJounal.ie yesterday, White said that the country will have to “up our game”. Under the EU 2020 plans, 40% of Ireland’s electricity needs must be generated from renewable sources. This currently runs at around 23%.

“Heat and transport will be more difficult, transport in particular. We really do need to make more progress on transport,” White said.

Under the 2020 rules 12% of Ireland’s heating needs and 10% of its consumption of energy for transport must come from renewable sources by 2020. He said this would mean more use of electric vehicles:

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

The minister said progress had been slow as there needed to be considerable investment in areas like rail electrification and conversion to electric cars:

So it’s about the electric vehicles themselves first of all, and we have a grant system there. But it’s also about local authorities coming on board and making sure that there are refuelling facilities around the cities and towns of Ireland to promote the use of electric vehicles.

White, who will publish a white paper on energy policy for the next 15 years next week, said he plans to introduce a renewable heat initiative (RHI) next year. This will incentivise large buildings and industries to look at using renewable heat.

White also told TheJournal.ie that he does not foresee a nuclear power plant being built in Ireland in the future. As well as a lack of enthusiasm among the public, he cited the questionable economics of such a move:

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube
I don’t see Ireland introducing nuclear, certainly not while I’m minister or within the purview of this white paper, certainly not.

The Labour TD said his white paper would go towards the ultimate aim of making Ireland a low-carbon economy by 2050, saying: “I think that you could see a reduction of somewhere between 80% and 95%, I think, on 1990 levels.”

He said this week’s storms and flooding in parts of the country underlined the need to see the link between climate change and extreme weather events that are now affecting Ireland.

capture-315 Flooding in Clare this week Source: ClareVirtually/Twitter

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was accused of “speaking out of both sides” of his mouth when addressing the COP21 global climate change summit in Paris last week.

Kenny said the EU had set “unrealistic” emissions targets for the agriculture sector on which Ireland is heavily dependent.

But White, who attended the Paris summit earlier this week, insisted Ireland was “very committed” to its targets claiming the country is regarded as “a leader” on renewable energy:

I think we will have to make the case for agriculture [but] we also need to be making the case for what we’re doing on the other side of the equation which is real progress on renewable energy.

There’ll be more from our interview with Alex White on TheJoural.ie in the coming days.

Read: There are some major holes in Ireland’s renewable energy plans

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