Our Nation Must Use Our Surroundings

Priscilla Obilana examines Ireland’s prime natural resources as a source of energy.

The world is beginning to recognise and understand the magnitude of the threat posed by the overuse of carbon-based resources. Initiatives like the 2015 Paris Agreement demonstrate the commitment of the vast majority of the world to preventing global temperatures from rising and furthermore towards the betterment of the energy sources currently being utilised. A primary step being taken towards this goal is switching to renewable energy sources. Herein lies an opportunity for Ireland, surrounded by bodies of water, containing more than a hundred rivers, and over 12,000 lakes.

Ireland’s overflow of water allows it to tap into the outpour of resources submerging its surroundings and heavily invest in hydroelectricity. The shift towards safer, eco-friendly resources due to the Paris Agreement is inevitable in practically every country, meaning an investment into the industry is worth considering. In this new world it is a cause for concern to see Ireland with so much renewable potential to simply partake passively.

“The reliability of hydro power makes it more affordable as prices would not fluctuate like those of non-renewable resources.”

Developing this form of energy would be beneficial on many counts, the positive eco-related results hydroelectricity could provide as a clean fuel resource would result in reductions in the pollution of the atmosphere. It is renewable and reliable, unlike oil and gas which are finite and becoming more expensive commodities.

The reliability of hydro power makes it more affordable as prices would not fluctuate like those of non-renewable resources. Hydro-electric plants can also carry out other functions, like that of flood control or irrigation. In addition, there is also the benefit of leading the way in an eco-friendlier world. By being proactive and eager to make drastic changes quickly, taking far-reaching steps in the hydro industry would be beneficial for the Irish government. They have been heavily criticised for dragging their feet in regards to the Agreement, signing the much contested European proposed regulation, Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), which experts have said is a way to reduce the agreement of reducing carbon emissions by 2030.

It would not be the first time Ireland took a risk and led the way with hydroelectricity. In 1929, the first hydro plant in Ireland was built on the River Shannon at Ardnacrusha and due to its supply of 85 megawatts, it was the biggest scheme of its kind for the time. It is still one of the biggest dammed power stations in Ireland, now joined by only two others.

“Hydro generators provided only 3% of Ireland’s electricity in 2016, while in the same year, it was reported that Ireland was dependent on 85% of energy in the form of imports which costs €5.7 billion annually.”

Hydro generators provided only 3% of Ireland’s electricity in 2016, while in the same year, it was reported that Ireland was dependent on 85% of energy in the form of imports which cost €5.7 billion annually. Hydroelectricity would serve as a path for Ireland to gain energy independence. Furthermore, energy can be generated from hydropower through various means. As there are many forms of hydroelectricity such as micro-hydroelectric power, pumped storage plants, and wave generators Irish companies can begin to invest in and reap the benefits within a few years.

However, developments in hydro power are being made. The latest development in hydroelectricity is a deal which was signed in the summer of 2017 to build a zero emission, pumped storage power station in Tipperary. A project that was first started in January of 2016 by Minister for Environment, Community, and Local Government Alan Kelly, is due to start construction in two years. The project is backed by PowerChina, suggesting that maybe employing foreign direct investment is the way to go in building hydro plants. The plant will be the second of its kind following the station in Turlough Hill in Wicklow, which was commissioned in 1974. It took 42 years for another plant to be built, for the sake of our planet it cannot take another 42 years for another.

Due to the Paris Agreement, the change from carbon-based to renewable energy must be made anyway, Ireland should take steps towards not only reaching its agreement but also to surpass it and to be a significant actor in an emerging industry. While statistics show that Ireland is leaning towards wind power to reach its 2020 and 2030 goals, perhaps a better energy source to invest in is hydro power, a form of power which is significantly less publicly contested than wind.

A large criticism for hydro power however is that it is the world’s number one renewable energy source. This and global climate change cause professionals to say hydro power is not steady enough to invest in for the long term. Water will be greatly impacted by climate change and so if energy depends on water, then it too will be impacted. This hypothesis mainly concerns countries forecasted to be affected by droughts, which Ireland is thankfully not. All things considered, developing the industry now, utilising this clean fuel when it is so greatly needed would be in our country’s, and the world’s, best interest.