Achill Entrepreneur Michael Bradley, CEO of Irish renewable energy company Solar 21, welcomes Ireland’s involvement in the Paris Agreement as a landmark agreement on climate change. “The issue of reaching our 2020 targets needs immediate and concentrated attention,” said Achill native Mr Bradley, and has some strong thoughts on Ireland’s involvements in the Paris Agreement, which was signed in New York on Friday last, and what the future might hold for sustainable energy in Ireland.
He continued, “Ireland’s willingness to be one of the first signatories of the agreement has to be commended and I hope that this development is the first step on our path to greater energy efficiency and sustainability. However, it should not be forgotten that Ireland has achieved just over half of its targets (8.6 per cent of energy derived from renewable sources ) over the last 10 years (2005 to 2015 ) and has four years (2016 to 2020 ) to achieve the target of 16 per cent of national energy consumption to derive from renewable sources. The price to be paid for this failure to think ahead will be two-pronged – we’ll be hit with a hefty fine from the EU and we’ll have to stump up the cost of bringing on stream all the initiatives required to achieve the goal.
"Because the only way to persuade people to buy electric cars and retrofit their houses, and to convince industry to invest in renewables, is to have heavily subsidised schemes. Solar energy on an industrial level is conspicuously absent from the SEAI’s plan to meet targets. The great hope is wind, and yet the development of wind farms is being blocked all over the country by planning objections. Solar energy is much less obtrusive and therefore much more realistic an option.
"From our own perspective - we are an Irish company invested in operational solar farms in Italy, where eight per cent of the national energy supply derives from the sun. Italy reached its 2020 target at the end of 2014. We have the know-how to invest in Irish solar farms and biomass plants, but it is not going to happen without Government support. Investor uncertainty is one of the key obstructions to renewable energy globally. Right now there is zero political interest in this critical part of Ireland’s economic future. But this is likely to change when those hundreds of millions of euro in EU fines hit in 2020.
"We hope that today’s agreement will spur the Government on to really develop Ireland’s sustainable energy plan. We would suggest some lateral thinking around solutions and initiatives - like an emission tax on business that can be offset by carbon credits from buying “green energy” to contribute to the PSO levy. Or the building of a Government-backed sinking fund or green bond that can be used to finance the retro fit of houses to become more green (as the main problem here is access to finance ).
"In addition, we would advocate a tax on foreign solar panels to increase Government revenue or to support local panel producers. The issue of reaching our 2020 targets needs immediate and concentrated attention. While we are glad to see some Green Party TDs in the 32nd Dáil, this is a societal problem that needs every TD’s focus right now. Recent governments have been thinking in four-to-five-year terms. This short-sighted thinking has to stop if we want a sustainable future in this country”.