Energy Minister Eamon Ryan has redoubled his opposition to a proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) storage facility on the Shannon estuary – despite the energy supply crisis he dubs “beyond the oil crisis of the 1970s”.
n Bord Pleanála will soon rule on a planning application for the facility, and the Taoiseach said on a visit to Kerry last month that the development is “among options which have to be considered” due to the war in Ukraine.
Mr Ryan has also ruled out nuclear energy for Ireland, despite it now being dubbed “green” in certain limited circumstances by the EU, in an initiative driven by Irish commissioner, Mairéad McGuinness.
“The war in Ukraine has changed everything, there’s no doubt about that, and the scale of this energy crisis is beyond the oil crisis of the 1970s,” Mr Ryan told the Irish Independent. “We have to look at a variety of energy storage facilities – but that doesn’t mean you go with Ballylongford”.
Mr Ryan acknowledged that An Bord Pleanála is entirely independent and must make its own decisions. Additional information requested by the board led the would-be developers of the plant at Ballylongford to argue it would dramatically reduce EU dependence on scarce and increasingly expensive Russian gas.
The Green Party leader, whose opposition to the Kerry gas storage development was a key issue in coalition talks in the spring and summer of 2020, said the State had to take a lead in deciding future energy policy, rather than deferring to private interests and keeping a total focus on low-carbon energy efficiency. He said this must happen irrespective of the decision on planning at Ballylongford, which at all events could take up to a decade to put into use.
“We need to have a coordinated energy system based on our aim of having zero-carbon inside 30 years. What we do has to be based on wind and solar energy production, not an old-school model,” the Energy Minister argued.
Mr Ryan was equally negative about the prospect of nuclear power playing a role in Ireland’s future energy mix. Some people point to France – where 70pc of energy comes from nuclear power generation – and also hold out the prospect of smaller-scale ‘modular’ nuclear generators potentially solving Ireland’s need to have secure and low-carbon energy in the medium-term future.
“Nuclear power is just so expensive and not at all suited to the Irish grid. We have a relatively small grid in Ireland and if we put on nuclear energy we need to keep a similar level of power in reserve to allow for when it is shut down,” the minister said.
He also said that the French authorities were experiencing a series of technical problems with their nuclear installations, including a drought which made water-cooling more problematic. He said Ireland had no real expertise in nuclear power generation but did have this with wave, wind and solar power – and that was where the focus of international investment is now going.
“Nuclear doesn’t provide a kind of miracle panacea and it would be incredibly expensive for us. We don’t currently have a nuclear waste problem to deal with – so, why create one?” he added.