ENERGY provision is something we often take for granted, which is not what we should be doing. We were reminded of this in an evaluation paper recently published by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), which concluded that Irish energy policy should prioritise sustainability, security and competitiveness regardless of possible Brexit impact.Â
Even though much of Irish energy and climate policy is determined at EU level, the energy systems of Ireland and the UK are closely linked. Ireland's gas and electricity systems are currently exclusively connected to Great Britain, which raises concerns surrounding security of supply, as well as efficiency of trading over interconnectors should Great Britain cease to be a member of the EU Internal Energy Markets (IEM), while Ireland also has reserve oil stores in the UK.
However, if the UK does not remain a member of the IEM, it may change the scenario somewhat. The ESRI report urges that the special position of the all-island market for electricity in Ireland should be prioritised in any Brexit negotiations, as this market has delivered for consumers North and South by harnessing economies of scale and increasing competition, resulting in a more efficient and transparent market.Â
However, it warns that the efficiency of the market may be undermined if there is a divergence in UK energy policy in general, and renewable policy in particular, from its current course as a result of Brexit.
Regardless of how the Brexit negotiations go, there will still be issues that need addressing, including climate change targets and requirements for new infrastructure. Ireland is lagging well behind in achieving the agreed reduction of its emissions targets, so a lot of detailed consideration will have to be given to rectifying this and the report recommends it should be informed by a robust analysis of the least-cost path to carbon reduction, rather than by various specific renewable and carbon reduction targets that often conflict.Â
When planning new infrastructure, the ESRI recommends a thorough cost-benefit analysis in order to ensure that Irish energy consumers are able to avail of the best possible value for money.