Published: Fri, 22 April 2022
“The bloody battle for Donbas is underway, but the barbaric and inhumane war crimes carried out on innocent civilians on order from Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has already changed Europe forever. We need to hit Russia with the strongest possible sanctions and I urge all Member States to agree a complete embargo on the import of Russian coal, oil and gas as soon as possible”, Seán Kelly MEP said from the European Parliament in Brussels today (Thursday).
“Concern for the impact of such stringent measures is understandable. There will be economic ramifications for Europeans as well, however, we cannot sit back and keep filling Putin’s pockets with blood money”, underlined Kelly, leader of the Fine Gael delegation in the Parliament.
“We must be realistic about the ramifications of cutting energy ties with Russia, but that just not mean we cannot mitigate any negative impacts. In the medium to long term, it is clear we must significantly fast track home grown generation. We really need to accelerate renewable deployment as much as possible in the coming years. This must be in tandem with grid upgrades and vastly speeding up planning system, both of which I have called for on a number of occasions including my “Fit for 55 label” proposal that willing significantly help get renewable technologies we need deployed quicker. However, we do not have enough emphasis on the most effective tool at our disposable – energy efficiency.”
“If we remove Russian gas from the equation, it is likely that alternative supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the US or Qatar will not be sufficient fill the void in Europe. This will have significant knock-on effects for Ireland”, he continued.
“The Ukrainian people are facing extreme hardship and their resilience has inspired the world, but we do not know how this war will end or when it will. Ireland’s back up system is still fossil based, and we have should be preparing for this winter and next when renewables provide less energy.”
Reducing our energy usage is the surest way to insulate us from rising gas and oil prices, according to MEP Kelly: “This will come primarily via energy efficiency renovations, but there are also some behavioural actions that we can take that will also have an immediate impact. These actions by no means will have a trivial impact collectively, but we need to get the communication right on it.”
Therefore, the Ireland South MEP is calling on the government develop an Energy Conservation Guidance for businesses, industry and households so that they can prepare for the winter ahead and improve energy efficiency.
“For households, as well as advice on energy usage, this should include information on funding schemes for home renovations. We should also be ramping up the deployment of rooftop solar panels and heat pumps, across the EU there is a potential to reduce use of 2.5 and 1.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas respectively by the end of this year. In fact, an additional 10 bcm of gas could be saved by next winter if all households in the EU turned down their thermostats by 1°C. We need to communicate this better to the public as the ultimate goal is to stop funding Putin’s war machine”, said Kelly.
Ireland’s natural gas import dependency rate was 71% in 2021, up from 64% in 2020. Speaking from the European Parliament (Friday), Kelly added that “although every citizen can play a part, the heavy lifting should be done by business and industry who should evaluate their energy usage and ensure that they implement efficiency measures to reduce the use of gas, electricity and water as much as possible without impacting their economic effectiveness or quality of life in relation to households. Leinster House should be the first to do this as should all government buildings, we need to see the example being set.”
Energy Efficiency as a policy choice is being underutilised, but its dividends are clear and we should embrace them more. Efficiency is just one piece of the puzzle in reaching a climate neutral economy, but it will be very important in both the short and long term”, Kelly concluded.