Thursday, September 11, 2008

Whinge Energy

We're going to hear a lot of complaints about energy over the next twelve months. The Irish Times tells us this morning that businesses are facing a 75% hike in electricity prices next year, following a similar increase in gas prices over the past year. Yet, despite a trend increase in global energy prices (even allowing for the recent weakening in oil prices), future demand for energy is expected to increase by 50% between 2005 and 2030, according to the latest forecasts from the Energy Information Administration.

Where will the energy come from? An essay by Sterling Smith over at The Oil Drum faces some inconvenient truths about energy: efficiency and renewables won't fill the gap if we are to extend modern civilisation to the world's developing nations (though some Greens don't want to do that of course). The answer, as best he can call it looking out to 2050, is nuclear power - the only source potentially capable of filling the demand-supply gap illustrated in the above chart from his essay. I'm not so sure myself, though I do think nuclear will play an important part in the energy transition we are now facing.

Meanwhile here in Ireland we seemed to be more consumed with micro-managing an all-Ireland electricity grid than actually putting in place the infrastructure to protect and sustain our economic wellbeing into the future. So expect a growing cacophony of complaints about energy prices and energy insecurity in the months and years ahead - now if only we could plug that into the grid ...


  1. I have read that in switching to nuclear (fission) we will exhaust the known supplies of unarium in 60 years. Doesn't sound like a viable long term solution to me. How is it our job to "civilise" the worlds developing nations BTW? I'm not a green per say, I just don't view that as being my problem, in fact there are too many people as it is. Educate is a different matter, civilise? Hmmm?

  2. 1) Bearing in mind that the fall in the price of oil is linked in part to dollar appreciation against the euro, so the net benefit is not as great as it seems.

    2) Ireland's position is exacerbated by a simply dreadful generation mix, which leaves us highly exposed to the cost of natural gas imports.

    3) While renewables and efficiencies may not plug the gap (the key assumption being that demand is the variable that everything else reacts to!!), there is a huge amount of untapped potential in both that needs to be utilised in any event.

    4) Nothing terribly new in that article by the way. China has plans to build 32 nuclear power plants alone by 2020. India's plans are ven more ambitious as it want to be meeting one third of its power needs by way of nuclear energy by the same date.


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