One of the world’s leading energy experts today warned Brian Cowen that Ireland is very vulnerable to a looming global oil shock.
Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA), also told the Taoiseach that the era of cheap power is now over and alternative technologies are needed.
The senior analyst, who advises leaders of the western world on energy supplies, was in Dublin to brief the Irish government on the IEA’s latest yearly report.
Its outlook is gloomier than previously expected with the equivalent of six new Saudi Arabias needed between now and 2030 to meet international demands.
And, according to Mr Birol, smaller countries at the end of the supply chain will bear the brunt of the threatened world energy crisis.
“Ireland is a very vulnerable country in terms of its reliance on the international oil and gas markets,” he said.
The IEA advisor praised Energy Minister Eamon Ryan’s push for greener alternatives such as wind energy, which he said will become more affordable as gas and oil prices rise.
But he urged a mixed of energy sources to buffer the country against any shocks.
“As our report outlines, the [oil and gas] markets will go through troubled waters in the years to come and the higher prices will mean higher import prices for Ireland,” he said.
“I would continue to push on the energy efficiency, renewables and other alternative technologies to reduce the reliance on foreign oil and gas as much as possible.”
Mr Birol said he was also impressed by Government moves towards energy efficiency.
“On top of that the [Energy] Minister is very ambitious,” he said.
“I would say target-oriented plans in terms of trying to find alternatives to oil in the transportation sector is a very good step and pushing renewable energy in general is very good.”
Mr Ryan said an energy revolution should be seen as a positive opportunity for Ireland that can help us out of the recession.
“I think this alternative future can be the green new deal,” he said.
“It can show us a way out of the economic difficulties, cut back our imports bill and create jobs here.”
The minister said Ireland was one of the most oil dependent countries in the world – using the equivalent of 10 pints of oil for every man, woman and child every day – and had no other option but a greener future.
“As a smaller country in the world we don’t have the power – we can’t send an army out to the Middle East and grab hold of the oil and bring it back,” he said.
“We have to depend on our own wit and resources to reduce that dependence.”