While Ireland only utilizes renewable energy for approximately 4 percent of its total energy use, policymakers in country realize they have a much greater potential than is currently exploited [Source 1]. Ireland has long coasts with among the best ocean energy potential in the world, with subsequent high wind energy potential as well. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) estimates Ireland has the natural resource potential to install up to “29GW of ocean energy capacity” and up to “16GW of onshore wind and 30GW of offshore wind by 2050” [Sources 2 and 3].
In the last few years, the SEAI published several “roadmaps” to help guide policymaking and technology development in key areas. The first three roadmaps published in 2010 focused on ocean energy, bio-energy, and energy efficiency. In the spring of 2012 SEAI published 3 new roadmaps, with the partnership of the IEA, on wind power, smart grids, and electric vehicles. If wind and ocean energy are scaled up at their base growth estimates, the SEIA states that “Ireland has the potential to generate enough electricity to exceed domestic demand by 2030.” Thus the shift to electric vehicles, smart grids, and efficiency gains is of particular interest aside from promoting renewable energy production [Source 4].
The purpose of the roadmaps, according to the CEO of SEAI Dr. J. Owen Lewis is “to accelerate the deployment of selected technologies in Ireland within both a near term (2020) and longer term (2050) time horizon.” The address three areas: guiding current policy to be ready for future technologies, identify gaps in research and development, and identify specific needs required to realize greater success in specific low-carbon technologies [Source 4].
Compared to the disorder of American energy policy, it seems Ireland is taking the bull by the horns in trying to facilitate more renewable energy production in country for both national consumption and potential export. This is particularly important for Ireland, which has experienced the global economic downturn more severely than other European countries. But as Dr. Webber noted in class, it is not fair to compare the seeming ease of policymaking in a country the size of Ireland that has fewer energy industry players with the United States and its multitude of stakeholders and interest groups. All in all, technology policy roadmaps may not be as exciting as breaking ground on massive new energy projects. Yet they are a thoughtful and cost-effective first step for Irish businesses and policymakers to understand the natural resources they have, the technology available, and how to make the first step to improving their renewable energy portfolio.
1) Google Public Data Explorer. OECD Factbook 2011. “Contribution of renewables to energy supply.” 2009, 2010 figures.
2) Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. “Ocean Energy Roadmap.” 2010. Retrieved from http://www.seai.ie/Renewables/Ocean_Energy_Roadmap.pdf
3) Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. “Wind Energy Roadmap.” 2012. Retrieved from http://www.seai.ie/Publications/SEAI_Roadmaps/Wind_Energy_Roadmap.pdf
4) International Energy Agency. “An IEA OPEN Energy Technology Bulletin Interview Issue No. 82, February 2012.” Retrieved from http://www.iea.org/impagr/cip/pdf/Interview_Owen_Lewis.pdf