Energy generation refers to the process of turning fossil fuels and renewable energy into electricity. This is both a complex process and a wasteful one, as just 60% of the total inputs are transformed into electricity – the rest being lost in the form of heat. This information is captured in the graphic.
With such a wasteful process, the types of inputs being used to generate electricity become extremely important. Despite this, a third of Irish electricity comes from two of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the market – coal and peat. Because of their carbon structure, these fuels generate 40% more greenhouse gases than oil and 96% more than natural gas.
The first step in reducing emissions in this industry is to move away from coal and peat immediately before moving away from gas over the next decade. This year, the Irish government will give a €100-million grant to peat-fuelled electricity production, despite the damage being caused to the environment. In direct contrast to this, People Before Profit would close peat-fuelled power stations as quickly as possible and retrain all staff to work on the bogs with their current level of salary. As a natural habitat, peat bogs can act as carbon sinks if they are managed correctly.
Did you know, if we closed Moneypoint immediately instead of in five years, we would reduce Ireland’s carbon footprint by 30 million tonnes or 50% of the country’s emissions for an entire year?
Organising a Just Transition in this way is, therefore, essential so that working people are not being asked to carry the burden for reducing our national emissions. We would also close the country’s major coal-burning power station at Moneypoint. In 2018, Moneypoint was out of action for over two months, so there is a precedent for coping without it via the wholesale market. People Before Profit would therefore close Moneypoint immediately, instead of the scheduled 2025 – saving 30 million tonnes of Co2 from being pumped into the atmosphere or 50% of the country’s current yearly total. Again, we would support the workers in this plant to retrain on full salary and move into the station’s renewable energy division. Once this is done, we would move rapidly to replace natural gas with wind energy, getting at least 90% of all electricity from this source by 2030.
No to carbon taxes: make the corporations pay
In Budget 2020, Fine Gael introduced a carbon tax of €6 a tonne to be paid by motorists and people heating their homes. This is a regressive tax that will hit low-income, middle-income and rural people hardest. It is also very unlikely to change behaviour as the government have not initiated either a national retrofit programme or free public transport. In addition to destroying good will with people who see the climate being used for extra taxes, this measure creates a dangerous illusion that Fine Gael are taking the climate issue seriously when we know they are not. Remember that 60% of a litre of petrol already goes to the government in taxes without changing behaviour at a macro level.
Instead of this regressive and ineffective measure, People Before Profit favour a twin approach to reducing emissions. On the one hand, we would support people by rolling out a national retrofitting scheme and free public transport. On the other hand, we would take €900 million from the aviation sector this year and look to increase this every year to 2030.
Moving into wind
Last year, Ireland managed to generate 27% of its electricity from wind sources. This has allowed the state to reduce emissions by 3.6 million tonnes – enough to power more than a million road vehicles. The following graph gives a visual representation of this transformation.
Here are our key policy proposals for energy:
- People Before Profit would close all coal and peat-fired power stations immediately. To make sure front-line workers are protected, we would retrain staff and employ them in renewable energy initiatives.
- Over the next 10 years, we would invest €25–€30 billion to build wind capacity to power 90% of our electricity needs, assuming steady levels of demand.