Generating Energy in Ireland – an open letter to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD

Dear Taoiseach,

Here is a draft plan for power generation, job creation, and energy security in Ireland. I would welcome serious discussion and action in order to make it happen.

Central to realising the goals is the retention in full of the ESB, Bord Gais, and Coillte, for vital infrastructure and control.

In Ireland we consume about 8 million tonnes of oil per year. Approximately a third of this is diesel for heavy goods transport and industrial useage. The other two thirds is mostly used in petrol cars, many of which could be replaced by electric cars. This electricity can be generated in Ireland. We pay foreigners about €6 billion each year for oil, and approx. €4 billion for other forms of energy. The.€4 billion we save on petrol could be spent in Ireland.

On the diesel front there is technology ready to be commercialised in the US which extracts food and health products from grain, corn, and biomass, prior to producing the fuel. One of these factories in Ireland would use the crop from up to 50,000 acres of tillage land. Each factory would directly employ 250 people, pumping in approximately €8 million into that local economy. In Ireland we have around 2.9 million acres of tillage land. Potentially we could have many such factories from East Cork to Louth. Each of these plants would produce 38,000 tonnes of diesel replacement fuel. The technology can also process biomass crops which increases the potential greatly in Ireland. Because these factories produce high value added food and other products as well as fuel, the profit margins are significant.

Ninety per cent of Irish exports are by foreign owned firms based in Ireland. We cannot rely too much on this in the long term. We need to ‘shore-up’ our domestic economy. Farming is good right now but the upward pressure on input prices is alarming. Artificial fertiliser production is hugely dependent on oil. As oil continues to get scarcer fertiliser prices will get very expensive and ultimately unaffordable. This brings us to the next technology, Anaerobic Digestion, which has been around for many decades. These plants take in slurry, food wastes, brewery waste, food factory sludges, belly grasses from abattoirs, and lots of other good stuff! The process takes place in totally sealed tanks. The products are stable non polluting organic fertiliser, electricity, transport gas, and heat. By doing this you solve a massive waste problem, pollution problems, and replace significant quantities of artificial fertilisers. The latter are mostly imported with that revenue again leaving the country. There are 4,000 anaerobic digesters in Germany. There could be 1,000 of them in Ireland. At present we have about 10 of them in the Country. Each digester could produce approx 4 million units of electricity per year. If this was valued at 16 cents per unit it equates to about €640,000 per year. So we could be producing €640 million worth of electricity on farms in Ireland ! Each Anaerobic Digester produces twice as much heat as it does electricity. They should be located close to areas of population, industry, or our 4,000 schools, so that the heat can be utilised. In Ireland we have about 1.8 million household users, and about 200,000 service and industry users. However in round terms of the total energy consumption in the Country 25% is households, 40% is for transport, and 35% is for the Services and Industrial sectors.

There are about 125,000 family farms in Ireland. A land-owner can now erect a small wind turbine, not greater than 20 metre high, without planning permission. Where there is single-phase power to and from the farm a 6 kW windmill can be erected. Where the supply is three-phase you can erect an 11 kW windmill. The efficiency of these is about 33%. So a 6 kW would produce about 17,500 units of electricity per year. If at a value of 16 cents per unit this equates to about €2,800 per year. These windmills cost around €25,000. In other Countries farmers sell this electricity for significantly more than 16 cents per unit. One of the best micro wind turbine manufacturing companies in Europe is based in County Galway.

Storing electricity and releasing it exactly according to demand is most important. An initiative called ‘The Spirit of Ireland’ was launched a couple of years ago. Briefly wind energy is used to pump sea water up to constructed reservoirs in unpopulated valleys near the coast, where the underground bedrock is impermeable. An enormous amount of legwork and research has identified a dozen suitable sites. Apparently two of these sites would generate the present demand for electricity in Ireland. Details of the proposal can be seen on .The power generation, the employment potential, and the energy security for Ireland with such Internationally proven projects deserves immediate attention, support, and action.

Electricity generation from other wind farms could potentially produce 30% of Ireland’s present demand. However correct site selection is vital.

Solar companies propose that nearly 4% of our present needs could be generated using photo-voltaic technologies, which continue to be researched and upgraded. Much of the big investment money in the US has been put in to this research and development. Solar panels for water and under-floor heating are a very successful additions to many houses.

Indeed energy saving is as important as energy replacement, and the SEAI has done excellent work in that field over the last few years.

Many clever people have recently said that the future of power generation in Ireland will be from the moon rather than the sun. The moon drives the tides, which never stops around Ireland. Several companies here have done very significant research and development with this technology. They claim that ocean/tidal energy could generate virtually all the electrical energy demand in Ireland, with the creation of about 7,500 jobs.

Finally an acquaintance of mine is selling approx. €30,000 worth of electricity from a small hydro turbine in the river beside his house in Munster. And this is at a low price or as it is termed ‘feed-in-tariff’ .In overall terms it might not seem much, but it would generate another 1,000 incomes and over €30 million of home produced electricity.

Taoiseach, how did we encourage all of those foreign companies to Ireland, the companies that now are responsible for 90% of Irish exports, and many jobs? How did we encourage our indigenous industries? Our forefathers built Ardnscrusha, developed the sugar industry, built an international airline business, built up the ESB, Bord Gais and Coillte. Let us now build an indigenous energy business. Give us Irish the tax breaks enjoyed by the foreign companies that set up here. Take Government equity in these Irish companies, in order to generate real National income. Pay at least 16 cents per unit supplied by the above technologies to the National Grid.

In doing so create over 80,000 jobs in Ireland. And quite simply let’s keep our money in Ireland for the Irish people, and stop purchasing 95% of our energy from abroad, with  about €10 billion each year leaving this Country. We have the natural resources, the people and the investors are lining up to co-invest in such government supported projects.

Taoiseach, this is an overview, a draft plan. Please put a task force together immediately to develop and implement it. Increase the ‘feed-in-tariffs’.  Let’s get to work and go a long way towards National energy security within 5 years. But we must start now!

Yours sincerely,

Walter Ryan-Purcell,

Local Campus,


West Cork.

Comments are closed.