It seems we are putting the cart before the horse.
If you join the dots between the various strands of our energy production and consumption policy, what kind of picture emerges? Let’s take a quick look.
In terms of fossil fuels, we have boatloads of coal being imported up the Shannon for use in Moneypoint this winter, as revealed in these pages last week. I know it’s prudent to ensure we don’t experience blackouts this winter, but the gap between our aspirations and our actions is a yawning chasm.
Our progression in terms of renewable energy provision is a litany of wasted opportunities. Bioenergy has been talked about for decades, but the absence of a decent feed-in tariff has held it back.
There are hundreds of applications for solar farms sitting in the planning offices of every local authority in Ireland. Gathering dust. Instead of a fast-track planning mechanism, all we have is a slowboat to Moneypoint.
Our forestry sector is enmeshed in a thicket of red-tape and blanket objections, and is being slowly strangled to death.
Yes, wind energy is the star performer, but resembles Lionel Messi trying to drag a poor Barcelona team along last season.
And then there’s peat. We don’t harvest peat, but we need to use it, so we import it from Poland and Germany, where it presumably is being magicked into existence by elves. Because if it’s being extracted from the ground over there, that would mean we are engaged in a breathless hypocrisy.
And don’t start me on our energy consumption. Data centres are the new boom. There currently are 70 of them dotted around the country. A small country mart would probably provide as much employment as the lot of them combined. It’s going to get worse. It is now estimated that data centres will consume 30% of Ireland’s electricity supply by the end of the decade. And for what? It makes little sense for a small island to become a storage device for the world’s tweets, texts and webpages, when we are laying cables to bring energy from Europe, and hardly caring whether it’s coal or even nuclear power.
Our food policy mirrors that of our energy policy. In 10 years’ time, it might be boatloads of Brazilian beef being imported instead of boatloads of coal or peat. And that would be even more shameful, because that is completely avoidable.