Irish Examiner view: Thoughts of winter energy use as we bask in the sun

We must understand that our use of resources resembles wartime rather than peacetime
Irish Examiner view: Thoughts of winter energy use as we bask in the sun

Firefighters tackle a wildfire near Saint-Magne, south of Bordeaux, France, on Friday. We all need to take exceptional precautions: a discarded cigarette can lead to conflagration; barbecues can be a very bad idea indeed. Picture: SDIS 33 via AP

It is counter-intuitive, to put it mildly, that at the very moment the mercury is heading towards 30C and we are worrying whether factor 50 is adequate protection for the Irish summer, thoughts of long, cold, winter nights should be nagging away at the back of our minds.

With Met Éireann issuing a yellow high temperature warning and the declaration of a status orange forest risk, we need to be careful. We have all seen what uncontrolled fire can do to countries with much larger resources than our own — California, France’s Bordeaux region, Australia — in very recent memory. Lives lost and property, woodland, and farmland destroyed.

We all need to take exceptional precautions in these strange circumstances which are beyond our experience. A discarded cigarette can lead to conflagration; barbecues can be a very bad idea indeed.

If you drive through parts of Victoria in Australia, you will be reminded that naked flames are illegal. You will be urged to report even the smallest sign of fire. It is this level of everyday alert we will be familiar with, due to climate change.

Yet, simultaneously, while we bask in the sun, Ireland’s homes and small businesses are being asked to avoid peak-time use of electricity this winter, to prevent blackouts. Energy supply, particularly where it is dependent upon imports, is very vulnerable.

This means reviewing a number of options which may have been more familiar to our parents and grandparents. The merits of the hot water bottle, warm drinks, three layers of clothing, electric blankets, storage heaters, and the deployment of multiple battery packs to power digital devices are all likely to commend themselves once the nights draw in.

In the UK, they are already debating the possibility of “load shedding”, the systematic shutdown of the power grid, by area, to mediate the distribution of supply. It is commonplace in South Africa, and we may become familiar with the concept before next spring.

Our Big Read feature today asks: “Will the lights stay on this winter?” The answer to that question depends upon us all being sensible, and understanding that our use of resources resembles wartime, rather than peacetime.

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