Sustainable energy ramp-up, the right kind of economy

The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was starker than any before it. It painted a picture of the devastating effects that climate change is beginning to have on our civilisation.

Water stress, food scarcity, extreme weather, increased fire events, sea level rise, flooding, climate related poverty and increased heat related deaths. The challenges to the natural world were also clearly stated. According to the latest science, if we keep doing what we are doing our future on this planet is looking very grim indeed.

So now what?

A global imperative must become national action

The role of sustainable energy in tackling the climate change challenge is significant. We have been busy, globally and locally, installing ever increasing levels of renewable energy technologies. Worldwide, around 14% of total energy comes from renewable resources and waste products. And you might be surprised to hear that around 50% of the world’s renewable energy comes from bioenergy. Renewables will continue their expansion in the next five years, covering 40% of global energy consumption growth, according to the International Energy Agency’s Renewables 2018 market analysis and forecast report.

Nationally, Ireland has a little over 10% of its total energy coming from renewable sources. The majority comes from wind (49%) and bioenergy (39%), with hydro and geothermal at 5% each and solar at 1.3%, Renewables in Ireland prevented 4.2 Mt CO2 being released to the atmosphere in 2017 – the equivalent emissions from 70% of all cars in Ireland.

On energy efficiency, over 400,000 householders have already availed of grants to make their homes warmer and cheaper to run. Thousands of businesses are cutting energy waste, and the public sector has led by example and is well on its way to a 33% energy efficiency target for 2020. Importantly, around 220 sustainable energy community groups have formed, with over 10,000 citizens now engaged in SEAI’s community network. Collectively, these efforts on efficiency save consumers over €1 billion on energy bills every year.

With the effort on efficiency and renewables to date, in Ireland we now have 30% of our electricity, 4% of transport fuel and 7% of heat supplied to homes and businesses coming from renewable sources.

We also have a growing economy which, despite significant policy achievements to date, means we are on an overall emissions trend which is far from sustainable.

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