Ireland needs to switch over to 100% renewable energy within 50 years to avoid spiralling fuel costs and combat global climate change, the Green Party said today.
At the launch of ‘Let’s Make the Switch’, which comes at the beginning of Energy Awareness Week, Green Party TDs and councillors said people were now paying the price for the Government’s failure to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels.
“We in the Green Party are the only party taking the whole issue of energy and the future in this country seriously,” Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said.
“Energy is going to be fundamental to our future economy as well as climate change.”
Mr Sargent accused the Government of being illiterate when it came to energy and said it was acting as an agency for fossil fuel companies.
The party is demanding a change from the current situation where 90% of Ireland’s energy needs are met with largely imported fossil fuels to 100% provided by renewable energy sources.
Energy spokesman Eamon Ryan said a variety of renewable energy technologies were needed to ensure security of supply, combat rising oil prices and meet European Union obligations to cut use of fossil fuels by 60-80% by 2050.
“You have to look at energy in a very long-term way,” he said.
“What we’re saying is we should start thinking about 2050.
“In the Green Party, we have a vision that by that time Ireland will be 100% renewable energy, and that’s practical, achievable and desirable.”
Wave and tide power could be used as a predictable back-up to wind power, while there was huge scope for the use of biofuels, such as wood pellets and anaerobic digesters, he said.
The party, which would waive all duty on biofuel crops and wanted to convert Carlow’s redundant sugar factory to a bio-ethanol plant, believes the growing of energy crops would provide a real future for Irish forestry and farming.
“The science of what we’re talking about is absolutely in the interests of the farmers,” Mr Sargent said.
Mr Ryan also called for a carbon tax of 20 euro per tonne, which he said would generate revenue of €800m a year that could be used to lower labour and VAT taxes and increase social welfare contributions.
He added that the Government’s budget of €180m to buy projected excess carbon emissions between 2008 and 2012 was based on carbon credits trading at 10 dollars a tonne, but the price had now tripled to 30 dollars a tonne leaving a €360m shortfall.
The Green Party also wants to see a switch to spending on public transport instead of road-building programmes and more energy-efficient houses built to protect householders from rising fuel costs as well as cutting emissions.
“Fuel poverty is already an issue with rising oil and gas prices and this will only continue if we do not change,” Dublin’s Deputy Lord Mayor Bronwen Maher said.