COUNTRIES have a responsibility to consider what regime they buy energy from and where that money goes in light of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, according to an expert in wind energy at University College Cork.
Dr Paul Leahy stated that, while Ireland gets very little of its energy from Russia, all energy markets are interconnected and, as a result, each country has an obligation to consider where it is getting energy from.
The UCC lecturer in wind energy highlighted the need for increased renewable energy development in Ireland to ensure we are not reliant on oil and gas imports.
“We are very dependent on oil and gas imports in Ireland,” Dr Leahy explained.
“Very little of our energy comes from Russia, so sanctions would not have a direct effect on our imports, but all energy markets are interconnected.
“If a large part of the global gas and oil supply is ruled out by sanctions, then we see the effects in terms of increased prices.
“All countries also have a wider responsibility to consider what kinds of regimes they are buying energy from, and what the proceeds of those sales might be used for,” he added.
Dr Leahy explained that, while more than 40 percent of Ireland’s electricity came from wind energy in 2020, one of the highest proportions in the EU, there are several issues that need to be addressed.
“The first is that we still have a huge unrealised potential to increase onshore, and particularly offshore, wind generation in Ireland,” he said.
“The second is decarbonising our heat and transport energy demand which is hugely dependent on fossil fuel imports.” Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, published by the government last year, set out a number of key actions to address these very issues, including a commitment to decarbonise the heat sector, increase renewable energy and provide more sustainable transport options.
Dr Leahy highlighted the “huge potential” for offshore wind energy development in Ireland.
“Offshore wind could comfortably meet our total electricity demand several times over,” he explained.
“Wind energy can also help reduce imported fossil fuels in the heat and transport issues, through technologies such as electric vehicles, heat pumps.
“Our H-Wind research project is investigating large-scale green hydrogen production from offshore wind, which can replace some of our imported fossil gas usage,” he added.
Dr Leahy stated further that “the invasion of Ukraine by Russia is showing us how vulnerable energy supply chains can be”.
He explained that renewable energy, while viewed as expensive, can be the cheaper and more reliable option.
“One of the criticisms of renewables is that they are expensive, but the wholesale price of gas in Europe has reached almost €200 per megawatt-hour,” said Dr Leahy.
“Wind energy can be produced for around €70 per megawatt-hour.
“Offshore wind development needs to be accelerated, for example by allowing flexible use of existing grid infrastructure,” he added.
“One of the most pressing needs is to consider alternatives to fossil gas, such as energy storage or hydrogen, in order to complement wind.
“These will allow us to reduce our dependence on fossil imports and, in time, completely decarbonise the electricity system.”