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Deputy Michael McNamara says the government needs to revisit the planned end of coal burning in Moneypoint by 2025 in light of the energy crisis. Photograph by John Kelly.

Stoke the coal to keep home fires burning says Clare TD

THE government has been urged to reverse the planned end of coal-powered electricity generation in Moneypoint Power Generating Station by 2025 in the absence of alternative energy sources being available to fill the gap, writes Dan Danaher.

The call was made by Independent Deputy Michael McNamara, who has criticised the Government’s policy of closing power stations during an energy crisis in the hope that they will eventually be replaced with green energy sources at an unspecified time in the future.

In the absence of assurances that Ireland will have alternative energy sources in place by 2025, Deputy McNamara believes the government should reverse its decision concerning the proposed end for coal-powered electricity at West Clare power generating station.

Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday night during a debate on a Bill introducing the €100 electricity credit scheme for householders, Deputy McNamara said growing concerns over Ireland’s energy security are being exacerbated by the closure of the country’s power stations and increasing reliance on imported high carbon energy sources.

The Independent Deputy admitted he has a problem with coal-powered energy, and he looks forward to the day it is replaced.

However, he stressed he lived in the real world where it is not being replaced today and it will not be replaced tomorrow.

“Instead of generating such energy here in Ireland and instead of having some degree of energy security in the State, we are at the mercy of other states.

“I look forward to the day when Moneypoint is replaced and retrofitted with hydrogen technology that is able to bring the energy onshore, and there will be huge, vast amounts of energy that we can turn into hydrogen and store in the form of hydrogen.”

“However, I accept the reality that it is not going to be today, it is not going to be next month or next year, and that we are going to need energy during all those times and especially when the wind is not blowing. We also must power the incubators, the hospitals and industries when the wind is not blowing.”

He pointed out Clare has a long and very proud history of producing energy for the State, in the form of the Shannon Scheme at Ardnacrusha, which was hugely innovative when it was developed.

It was one of the biggest hydroelectric stations in Europe when it was developed. Equally, Moneypoint was also developed in Clare.

He explained the two arcs of transmission that go from Moneypoint to Dublin simply could not be built now because they are pylons and there is a lot of controversy around pylons with planning issues, and rightly so.

However, they are there, and they are a hugely important piece of infrastructure.

He said the technology doesn’t exist to to generate electricity off the west coast of Ireland.

“The technology exists for offshore energy, but this is for anchored turbines that are probably suited for construction in the Irish Sea.

“If one is looking at constructing turbines off the west coast of Ireland it is a very different matter. There are huge Atlantic storms. I do not know if the Minister of State has ever experienced an Atlantic storm or the aftermath of one.

“I recall the former Ministers of State, Andrew Doyle and Éamon Ó Cuív, who previously sat in that seat. We went to the Aran Islands once in the immediate aftermath of such a storm. It is quite a sight to behold.

“There is a lot of hyperbole going about, celebrating 100 years of the State. One of the first priorities was to power this nation. If we cannot power this nation ourselves, we have no degree of independence or self-sufficiency and we have utterly failed.”

“No matter how much wind energy we bring in, and I am hopeful the technology around converting energy into hydrogen might be the solution, we really have to look at other alternatives.”

“Given the long-term nature of such green projects, I question why the Government has taken the decision to power down Moneypoint,” added the Clare TD.

Acknowledging there is a place for wind farms, he expressed concern when they are built at a height.

“I live close to Slieve Aughty and I know what happened in Derrybrien. It was an absolute disgrace. The only thing that was worse than it was the State’s response. It had to be brought kicking and screaming to the European Court of Justice – twice, I believe. The situation has never been remedied.

“Now we are proposing to do something similar. We had a recent landslide in Leitrim and we are proposing to build other wind farms at a height.”

In response, Minister of State Ossian Smyth acknowledged Deputy McNamara had referred to the longer-term issue of energy generation.

“When we are faced with a big problem, we have to tackle both. We have a short-term energy crisis. We have people who are cold in their homes and cannot afford to pay their bills.

“We also have a longer term and a medium-term problem. All those things need to be tackled. None of the solutions will be ideal or attractive to everybody.”

“I appreciate the Deputy’s comments and I appreciate the widespread support from deputies from all parties that we should do this, even if there are other things we should do as well. My ears and mind were open to the suggestions that were made,” he said.

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