National Energy Review – We need a Vision

collaborating people's charter
Bringing people together with all of their views and opinions can be a very rewarding exercise. The knowledge, aspirations, understanding, innovation and wisdom in the room can create the most dynamic vision. Magical.

Well that has been some week! I met with my local Senator, John Whelan, last Thursday January 9th. We had a long chat about Ireland’s energy policies and everything they evoked. We agreed on lots but one thing in particular – Irelands energy policy needs an overhaul – a complete, extensive review with public participation at it’s core. That’s pretty much what is being called for by the People’s Charter. For far too long energy in Ireland has been developer led with agreements being made often far removed from those the decisions would affect most.

I spent the afternoon emailing John policy history, an update on the current situation and finished it all off with my favorite bit – a vision. That to me is the best part, the one step that attracted me to the transition process when I first read about it back in 2006. What greater way is there to prepare any development plan than to get together with those concerned, brain storm to project our best wishes for 20 years into the future and then draft the timeline that will get us there. It is creative, innovative, inclusive, collaborative, empowering and yet so simple.

So, to visioning. We have never had an energy vision in Ireland. We have just become used to having energy, gradually increasing our dependence on imports and expecting it to be available forever. We never, as a nation, designed or planned our relationship – it has just evolved.

Nobody can predict the future so most people look at the now and extrapolate it – by assuming that existing trends will continue. Travel gets faster, buildings get taller, gadgets get smaller – all because they follow the trend relevant to them. All well and good if we can expect business as usual.

We now have two challenges that are well and truly upon us – resource depletion, such as peak oil, and climate change. Back in ’06 we spoke as though they were future challenges. Hindsight teaches us that conventional crude oil probably peaked in or around 2008 and the climate is definitely changing with no end in sight for the global temperature rise. We know fossil fuel is damaging the planets climate which supports the very ecosystem all life on earth is dependent upon.

The logistics – what do we know about how this affects our day to day living? We know oil prices have risen. We know the extreme weather events have increased in numbers and many in strength, powered by global warming. We see the havoc this can play with flooding, drought, crop failure, power cuts, damaged infrastructure, business closure etc etc. In line with forward planning lets extrapolate it – by assuming that existing trends will continue. By assuming the norm continues in it’s relevant trajectory.

This means that reserves of fossil fuel will continue to decline, prices will continue to rise and the world will continue to warm. Where does that leave our visioning? Realistically we must look forward to a very different world – an uncertain world. We must be creative, innovative, inclusive, collaborative and empowering, now, more so than ever before.

If you agree that Ireland’s energy policy needs an overhaul to incorporate extensive public participation please sign the People’s Charter on Renewable Energy’s petition.

Theresa O’Donohoe 15th January 2014


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