Energy enigma: EU must become ‘as self-sufficient as possible’

EU ministers have been urged to become as “self-sufficient as possible in terms of energy” – with the primary focus on renewable energy and driving energy efficiency – by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten.

Minister Naughten is in Luxembourg today (Monday, June 11) for a meeting of European energy ministers.

In his address to the European Council, Minister Naughten said this renewed focus is not just necessary to meet our climate targets but – from an economic perspective – it will ensure that EU economies will grow in a “long-term, sustainable manner”.

“Presently we see the eurozone economy beginning to slow down as a direct result of rising oil prices. We must decouple economic growth from oil availability and price.

Using renewable energy and improving the efficient use of energy across our economies releases the EU from the constraining impact of fossil fuels.

The minister emphasised the need for the EU to become self-sufficient in the production of biofuels.

“We cannot replace imported oil with unsustainable imported palm oil – this undermines our long term economic sustainability as well as transferring emissions to another part of the globe.

“We must bring renewed focus to the development of second-generation biofuels which are based on waste streams, thereby having a double impact on our environment,” stated Minister Naughten.

Speaking today from Luxembourg, the minister also supported measures to drive greater use of electricity in road transport and better mechanisms to install renewables on buildings to support micro-generation and self-consumption by families and businesses.

Micro renewables receive ‘Green’ backing

Meanwhile, following a meeting between the Micro Renewable Energy Federation (MREF) and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, MREF joint-chair Pat Smith welcomed the Green Party’s commitment to micro-generation and specifically PV solar and battery storage solutions for homes and businesses.

Ryan “strongly supported” prioritising rooftop PV solar ahead of large-scale renewables and said that Ireland should target the installation of 2,000MW of rooftop solar over the next 10 years, according to an announcement made by the MREF today.

Smith said the Government has a real opportunity to get “community buy-in” to energy generation from renewables by providing grant support to encourage homes, businesses and farms to install solar PV for self-consumption on site.

He said: “20% of the existing PSO Levy or €100 million per year urgently needs to be redirected towards encouraging those that are paying the levy to generate some of their own electricity.”

The joint-chair said a meaningful grant for PV solar and battery storage is the key catalyst required and he encouraged Minister Naughton to push on with his plans and ensure that a grant support system is in place and open before the end of this summer.

“Our political leaders need to stand up to vested, dominant interests in the energy market and major utilities groups – who seem to have the ear of the officials in delaying and slowing up the deployment of micro generation.

“There is no credible case for this and it’s time that power is given back to the people to allow them generate some of their own electricity requirements.”

Smith said that the Government is encouraging homes and businesses to electrify heating and transport. What that means in practice is that the electricity bills in homes of the future could increase three-fold, he claims.

“It is crazy that the major utilities are still permitted to influence and control the debate with hollow, self-serving arguments about the cost of maintaining the grid aimed at self-preservation and protecting the status quo.

“Demand for electricity will grow exponentially as the use of heat pump technology and electric cars increases.

“The Government must ensure that homes, businesses and farms have the opportunity to offset their increasing electricity requirements with micro-generation of their own power from their own premises,” he concluded.