Ireland’s energy minister has called for a review of the government’s capital spending plans to free up more investment funds for energy efficiency programmes.
Speaking at the Dublin launch of the 2016 Better Energy Communities grant scheme yesterday, which will make €20 million available to community-based energy efficiency projects this year, Alex White claimed better-than-expected public finances would allow the government to review its capital plan earlier than the proposed 2017.
“We need, as a country, to recommit ourselves to a scale of investment necessary to make our low-carbon ambition a reality. The government’s capital spending plan, published last September, demonstrates that we are alive to the challenge. But, while significant, it will not be enough to address the entire range of medium to long-term social, economic and environmental priorities that require substantial investment,” he said.
“I very much agree with my colleague Brendan Howlin (minister for public expenditure and reform), when he said that our better-than-expected public finances will allow us to review the capital plan earlier than 2017.”
The government’s most recent capital investment plan for 2016-21 pledged €444 million to be invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes by 2021 to help the State reach its 2020 and 2030 climate change targets. However, only €107 million is to be available for the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources over 2016.
The Labour minister’s support for new investment in energy efficiency follows the unveiling of his energy white paper in December which outlined a raft of policies designed to reduce carbon emissions by up to 95% by 2050. Despite the ambition of this goal, Ireland’s government must first meet legally binding targets for the proportion of the country’s energy sourced from renewable technologies; 16% by 2020. In 2014 it had only reached 8.6%, suggesting significant efforts are needed by the government to achieve its goal by the end of the decade.
White claimed that if his party remained in coalition following the Irish general election in April, capital investment would be prioritised for a broad of areas including energy efficiency, renewables, and green transport.
He also pledged continued support for the Better Energy Communities, which has so far funded energy efficiency upgrades across 260 community projects. This year will also see the scheme fund community-based renewable electricity projects for the first time.