RENEWABLE ENERGY and energy efficiency rather than nuclear power is the "cornerstone of our energy future", Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan said last night.
Renewable energy would provide a sustainable and secure energy supply as well as creating jobs, Mr Ryan said ahead of a debate on nuclear energy at Trinity College Dublin last night.
The commitment to 40 per cent renewables by 2020 announced by Minister for the Environment John Gormley yesterday recognised the "economic opportunities and advantages we have as a country in the renewable area".
Responding to predictions yesterday by ESB chief executive Pádraig McManus that Ireland would have nuclear power by 2035, Mr Ryan said in Government he had set out that renewables were the "way to go" and he was busy trying to deliver on this.
It was not possible to tell whether electricity coming to Ireland from Britain via interconnection was from nuclear or renewables. "That is just a law of physics you can't overcome," Mr Ryan said.
"We need interconnection and we are increasingly connected with the UK in terms of our energy future," he said, adding that Ireland could potentially sell renewables to Britain and Europe.
However, Mr McManus said yesterday that he believed Ireland would have nuclear power by the year 2035.
Mr McManus told The Irish Times that, unless new energy technology was developed by the early 2020s, Ireland would have no option but to develop nuclear power to meet both electricity demand and carbon emission targets.
Speaking in northern Spain, where ESB International is investing €500 million in a new combined cycle gas turbine, Mr McManus said demand for electricity in Ireland was expected to reach 10,000 megawatts by 2020.
Ireland would still be dependent on either gas or coal at that stage, Mr McManus added. "If one or other [gas or coal] runs out or becomes too expensive, nuclear power will be required."
A 12-year development cycle for nuclear power plants would require planning for them by 2022, he said. The ESB currently had "no plans" and "no expertise" to develop nuclear power, Mr McManus added.
The Irish Times