An alternative to current government policy

Wind Energy has a limited role in reducing CO2 emissions (Hughes, 2012; The Irish Academy of Engineers, 2011; Lane et al, 2009). Meaningful solutions to our global warming problems are urgently required. These include both supply-side and demand-side solutions.  Supply-side solutions refer to more efficient and environmentally-friendly means of producing energy. Demand side solutions refer to more efficient use of energy. Indeed, the solution to a leaking bucket is generally not to build a bigger tap!

Solutions for Ireland

Under the European ‘20-20-20’ strategy, Ireland has committed to a 20% reduction in energy consumption, a 20% greenhouse gas reduction and an increase in the contribution of renewables to 16% by 2020. However, the overriding focus has been on the renewable electricity market with some €8 billion invested in supply-side projects (mainly renewable energy and grid upgrades), while only €1 billion has been invested in demand-side initiatives (The Irish Academy of Engineers, 2011). Retrofitting residential houses with insulation and heat pumps has the potential to significantly reduce oil usage and CO2 emissions. 100,000 urban dwellings are currently within 20 metres of a gas grid and should be connected to this cleaner source of energy. The upgrading of electrical storage heating to ‘smart’ systems is now possible, and, both storage heating and heat pump systems in conjunction with remote communications links can facilitate rapid system load control.

Large public sectors, such as the HSE, are very energy intensive and there is potential to significantly improve energy efficiency in such areas. In addition, the CO2 emissions from transport in Ireland represented 30.15% of total fuel consumption in 2011 (Trading Economics, 2011). This is clearly another large potential area for savings.

Apart from the benefits of such measures in terms of CO2 savings and energy efficiency, significant opportunity for private enterprise would be created in the design, retrofitting, quality assurance, maintenance and compliance monitoring of energy conservation measures.

Big Picture Solutions

In their analyses of the effectiveness of climate change strategies, the think-tank Copenhagen Consensus Centre (Lane et al., 2009) differentiate between ‘enabling’ technologies and ‘breakthrough’ technologies. Some technologies are close to being ready but cannot be scaled-up without the development or supply of an “enabling” technology. Examples include: (a) grid integration and upgrade; smarter grids; DC lines for long distance transmission; and most important of all utility scale storage for intermittent solar and wind energy (this latter would constitute a “breakthrough” technology as well); (b) more energy efficient retrofits for fossil fuel-fired electricity generating plants to allow for CO2 capture from existing plants; (c) identification of safe and secure geologic storage sites for captured CO2; (d) methods to “spike” plutonium

 

produced as part of a nuclear electric closed cycles process (which would greatly economize on uranium 235 and substantially reduce nuclear waste). Examples of “breakthrough” technologies include: (a) a class of widely usable “breeder” reactors; (b) nuclear fusion; (c) deep geothermal; (d) worldwide “superconducting” grid; (e) air capture of CO2; and (f) many of the steps required to make a “hydrogen economy” feasible. Most of these may be decades away from being operative.

Bjørn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center has stated that:“European leaders should not abandon their commitment to taking action on climate change. But instead of wasting hundreds of billions of Euros on a pointless emissions policy, they should be investing in research and development of green energy alternatives. The reason it costs so much to reduce carbon emissions is that the green alternatives aren’t close to being ready to replace oil and other fossil fuels.”

References


The Irish Academy of Engineers 2011. Energy Policy and Economic Recovery 2010-2015 Dublin.

Hughes, G., 2012. Why is Wind Power So Expensive? An Economic Analysis, Global Warming Policy Foundation.

An economic analysis of the cost drivers in wind energy derived electricity.

The Copenhagen Consensus is a nonprofit organization which commissions and conducts new research and analysis into competing spending priorities. It’s members include four Nobel laureates; Finn E. Kydland, University of California, Santa Barbara, Robert Mundell, Columbia University in New York, Thomas Schelling, University of Maryland, and Vernon Smith, Chapman University. View.

Trading economics is an economics website which provides information for 196 countries, including historical data for over 300,000 indicators, exchange rates, stock market indexes, government bond yields and commodity prices. Data is based on official sources such as the World Bank. View.