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My Submission to the Green Paper on Energy Policy in Ireland – July 2014

To whom it may concern

I wish to lodge the following submission with regard to the Public Consultation on Green Paper Energy Policy in Ireland.

Green Energy is an integral part of Ireland’s sustainable future and it is through public education and awareness that our targets for energy efficiency, greenhouse-gas emissions and renewable energy can be met.. As outlined in the Green Paper, Ireland’s energy use altered in recent years due to the recession – less transport energy and industrial energy demands. However, with an upturn in the economy underway it is important that forward planning is undertaken to ensure that our energy demands are kept in check and also that rising energy prices can be controlled.

There are three main themes which I would like to address in this submission:

1. Empowering Energy Citizens

Questions 1, 2 & 4 – How to encourage citizen participation ,engagement and access to energy information:

It is essential that the public are provided with adequate information to encourage them to become part of the transition to future energy paths. This should primarily be done through national media campaigns which reach the greatest amount of the population, and perhaps follow up with social media consultation campaigns. However the key to engagement is offering practical, and ideally financial, incentives to engage in green energy. The current practice of offering SEAI Grants for energy efficient home improvements have proven very effective and in this regard I would suggest increasing the level of funding available and expanding the scheme.

Question 3 – Radically increase the rate of home retrofitting:

As per the previous point, in order to increase the number of home upgrades in large numbers, finance is the major obstacle which needs to be overcome. Also, greater emphasis should be placed on providing training courses in the retrofitting of homes to enhance energy efficiency to upskill professionals in the building trade. This should be particularly aimed at those who have found themselves unemployed due to the collapse in the building industry,

2. Planning and Implementing Essential Energy Infrastructure

Question 17 – Infrastructure projects providing for greater collaboration and engagement with community stakeholders:

It is essential that upgrading Ireland’s energy infrastructure is undertaken in a transparent, informative and consumer friendly manner. In recent times we have seen much public discontent with a number of planned energy developments, most notably those involving wind turbines. The key to preventing this discontent refers back to the previous point of ensuring citizen engagement and public information campaigns. But it is vital that the views and opinions of the public, particularly those who will be directly impacted by the development, are considered in advance of the planning process. For example suggesting underground cabling (where possible) from the outset instead of automatically looking at pylons is important, as this will automatically garner the support of local residents and allows these stakeholders to feel empowered in the process therefore expediting the progression of projects.

3. Ensuring a Balanced and Secure Energy Mix

Question 27 – Strategy to support the continued increase of renewable energy on the electricity grid:

Ireland is an island nation that has an abundance of access to natural resources to provide for wind and hydro energy infrastructure, biomass and bio-digestion These natural resources need to be exploited in order to achieve our energy efficiency targets. Steps have been made in recent years, for example, with the development of wind turbine farms in optimum locations throughout the country. However these developments have often been faced with local opposition due to lack of public engagement and consideration of residential needs. In order to ensure a balanced and secure energy mix, which can make the most of green energy, a proper analysis is required from societal, economic and sustainable points of view.

Kind regards

Anthony Lawlor TD