A EUROPEAN renewable energy “supergrid” would provide sustainable jobs, clean power and a much needed economic stimulus, Green Party leader John Gormley has told his party’s Northern annual conference. Speaking in Belfast at the weekend, Mr Gormley advocated an interconnected electricity system across western Europe and north Africa, predicting that the North could become a world leader in renewable energy.
Wind power from Denmark, tidal power from Antrim, solar power from Spain and wave power from Mayo could help power a cleaner society and economy, he said. Such interconnection was economically viable, he added.
“There is a 600km underwater cable running between Norway and the Netherlands. It cost €600 million to build, but it is already generating cross-border trade valued at €800,00 per day.”
Addressing the economic downturn, Mr Gormley referred to former US president FD Roosevelt’s recovery package 60 years ago and called for a “green new deal”.
“The search is on for ways out of the crisis, and the Greens are proposing that a Europe-wide green new deal provides a way out of the financial crisis. In the downturn the green tech sector has proven to be one of the few safe bets.”
The neoliberal, light regulation economic model was shown not to be sustainable, he argued. His speech focused on the need for greater North-South integration of energy and pollution control systems. Describing such an arrangements as a “win-win for us”, Mr Gormley said: “The number of jobs that could be created in Northern Ireland and the Republic to upgrade the all-island electricity grid so it’s ready for renewable connection could run into thousands,” he said.
The North was “uniquely placed” with its abundant renewable energy resources “and with political, business, union and environmental leadership and partnership become a ‘green economy’ leader”. Green Assembly member Brian Wilson told the conference the Executive’s progress on environmental issues was “dismal”. But he singled out its record on education for particular criticism.
“The greatest indictment of the Executive is its failure to get agreement [on] replacing the 11-plus,” he said.
The conference heard vociferous denouncements of the North’s Minister for the Environment Sammy Wilson over his views on the causes of climate change and his decision in particular to block a public information TV campaign “Act on CO2”.
Brian Wilson said the DUP was willing to go very far to protect the Minister, “even though he is destroying Northern Ireland’s international reputation”.