November 12: “Switch” movie screening and debate in Dublin

Documentary on transition to renewables?

Thursday in the Irish Film Institute in Dublin took place the screening of a documentary called “Switch”. As GEAI received a recommendation to see this we follow that and here we are, sitting in a cinema room waiting for a documentary about how we make the transition from fossil fuel to renewables.

The launch of the film switch was supported by the ICRAG institute to publicize their new research facility in Omagh and it also opened the Science Expressions Film Festival. The panellists were Prof. John Walsh, director of ICRAG, joined by Prof. Iain Stewart – University of Plymouth and presenter of numerous BBC geoscience programmes and Dr Claire O’Connell of the Irish Times as a coordinator of the panel.

Back to the movie…We were quite surprised and probably not in the way we thought…this is why.

SWITCH offered entirely a big oil message

The Switch was flagged on an RTE interview earlier that day, it was presented as recognizing the problem of energy usage nationally and globally, and as opening a national discussion on the best approaches addressing the problem. This seemed like a very attractive and valuable initiative.  Disappointingly, the SWITCH offered entirely a big oil message. Coal, oil, gas and tar sands were big, important and going to continue despite slight drawbacks. Even fracking only needed a bit more water to make it risk free. This message was presented by heavyweight US officials and the worst moment of the movie came when US secretary of energy declared that was never a case recorded of drinking water being polluted by fracking!

On the contrary, wind energy, solar energy, biomass were all small and limited and couldn’t be “scaled up”, and examples seemed mainly to be Europeans. Tidal energy was not even mentioned.

Most disturbingly, the movie suggested several times that various renewable sources would be too expensive. This was very misleading as there was no comparison with their predicted cost of climate change to those economies.

The message of the movie was that, because 600 millions Indians have no electricity and will require three times the United States current capacity in the future, “big oil was a good investment for meeting this future market”.  (Just to mention it…India has the fifth largest installed wind power capacity in the world!)

It finished by nodding towards a reduction in consumption being helpful.

Will Ireland’s geology save us from fracking?
Can we trust completely science in defining futures?

Can we trust  science in defining futures?

Speaking to the Irish geologist Mr. Walsh after the showing,  we found out that geologists are very confident that from a professional point of view they will be able to prove that the geology of the island will be total unsuitable for fracking operations, even those involved directly in baselines studies.

IFI suggested that we needed a wide spread “conversation on the topic of energy usage” and they are almost certainly right.

The Switch did not start to achieve this and it must now be left to other individuals, groups or organizations to actually set the ball rolling on this debate. It is a debate which neither Ireland nor the World can afford not to have.

GEAI will be very happy to play its part in getting people around that table.

Only one week to start changing Ireland’s energy landscape!


Only 7 days left to Renewable Energies – Prosperous Communities! A full day of workshops and discussion taking place in Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim. This full day of workshops and discussions will look at the ways that renewable energies can generate income for communities and create local jobs, as well as reducing energy bills! We need to create an alternative vision for Northwest communities threatened by fracking and this is exactly the aim of Renewable Energies – Prosperous Communities!

People attending will have the opportunity to listen about successful experiences from Ireland and Scotland. Pauline Gallacher, from the Neilston Trust (Scotland), will tell how this town in the outskirts of Glasgow transformed the community from a dormitory town to a prosperous community thank to a community-owned small wind farm. Many rural communities can learn a lot from this experience and replicate it. Cormac Walsh, from Energy Co-Operatives Ireland, will talk about the potential of community energy cooperatives. Another key speaker is Eamon Ryan, Green Party leader, who will talk about the challenges of global warming.

During the day, GEAI will present the results of an Energy Audit carried out in Manorhamilton that shows that households spend more than €2 million every year on energy. Over three quarters of this is spent on imported fossil fuels and this shows the importance of replacing fossil fuels with renewables.

“Renewable Energies – Prosperous Communities” is the first event of its kind organised in Ireland, but it is not going to be the last. We could be witnessing the beginning of reshaping Ireland’s energy landscape and it is happening in the Northwest!


GEAI rejects decision to extent peat burning plants lifetime

Good Energies Alliance Ireland joins the Environmental Pillar in condemning the decision to extend the lifetime of two peat-burning power stations in the Midlands beyond the present agreement of ceasing operation in 2019. The stations are located in west Offaly and at Lough Ree. The decision to extend their operation was revealed a letter to Bord na Móna workers from the company’s chief executive Mike Quinn.

“The present generation of electricity by burning peat goes completely against Ireland’s requirement to reduce carbon emissions and choose renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels. Ireland’s energy generators do not seem to realise that business as usual is not an option any longer”, GEAI spokesperson Aedín McLoughlin said.

“This decision demonstrates clearly the result of not having definite targets in the current Climate Bill. There is no requirement on companies to meet the challenges of reducing our carbon emissions and no alternative plans put forward”, GEAI spokesperson stated.

Good Energies Alliance has advocated since its creation in 2012 for a transition towards a carbon neutral Ireland. “We have the solution at hand, we can power ourselves without endangering the planet. Ireland has a great potential for wind, solar energy and biomass power. We are a small country but we can become a great example for the rest of the world. Continuing to burn peat sends out all the wrong signals,” Aedín McLoughlin concluded.

Wind energy essential for Ireland’s future, but communities must benefit

By John Arnold

By John Arnold

We in GEAI have published our position paper on Wind Energy with some controversial conclusions. Our main position is that “The development of wind energy is an essential part of the development of low-carbon energy generation in Ireland but such development must have genuine benefits for and buy-in from the Irish people.”

Our EVS volunteer and researcher Irina Tiugan explains, “We fully support wind energy development, on-shore and off-shore, but not the approach that has been taken so far to such developments; communities must be at the core of the planning process. If communities are involved in wind energy projects, they have more chance of success. In Germany, France and Scotland, we have seen that the involvement of the community in the development process has led to general acceptance and a faster implementation of the project. In other words, if people genuinely benefit from local wind energy projects, opposition to them is far less.”

The potential of wind energy to contribute to creation of a low-carbon Ireland is huge. Ireland is the second windiest country in Europe after Scotland, and it has a great potential for wind power. At present, wind produces less than 20% of Irish electricity consumption while the country spends billions every year importing fossil fuels.

GEAI fully supports and encourages community ownership of wind energy projects and small neighbourhood wind energy projects.  “Many studies show that if people have buy-in they will accept wind energy development”, said Irina.

We encourage Government to move effectively towards a collaborative planning approach in the development of wind energy as a national resource owned by and benefiting the Irish people. “With this Position Paper we want to contribute to a scientific-based debate around wind energy in Ireland, as well as to help in building a  sustainable, low-carbon and fair country,” Irina concluded.

Fracking is not the way to reduce Ireland’s energy imports


Ireland imports 89% of the energy it consumes during a year according to the last data release by Eurostat and 98% of this is supplied by fossil fuels. It is the 4th highest energy importer in the EU, after Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus. Ireland’s high dependency on imported fossil fuels makes her vulnerable, because she has no control over her energy supply. Problems in other parts of the world can have a huge impact on Ireland.

However, drilling for local sources of gas or oil is the wrong answer. Using renewable energy sources, e.g. wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power, is the only way to reduce Ireland’s energy imports.

“We depend on fossil fuels to generate electricity, heat our homes and drive our cars. We need to change that and the right way is by generating energy from renewable sources”, said GEAI director Aedín McLoughlin. “Recent studies confirm that 80% of global fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground to stop climate change and keep conditions on Earth suitable for humans. Fracking is not part of the solution, it is part of the problem.”

“Business as usual is not an option, we need to reduce our energy use and move towards a low carbon economy”, the GEAI director remarked.

”We have the solution at hand, we can power ourselves without endangering the planet. Ireland has great potential for wind, solar energy and biomass power. We are a small country but we can become a great example for the rest of the world. Our politicians must rise to the challenge and transform the current dull Climate Action Bill by including targets that will contribute towards a low-carbon world.”


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