Conference Motion 2006:
Proposer: Alan Lawther
Seconder: Elena Aceves-Cully
Motion 2: Renewable Energy
Failure to tackle the environmental and long-term costs of dependence upon non-renewable energy sources is damaging and unsustainable.
Conference reiterates its call for the realisation of an all-energy market, diversity of supply and the assertive promotion of renewable, sustainable energy.
Conference calls for an effective and beneficial subsidised premium to be paid to those who seek to supply and use renewable-sourced energy.
In proposing the motion Alan Lawther said:
“The importance of renewable energy can be seen on three fronts: increasing the diversity of supply, assisting in the protection of the environment and paving the way for an efficient, consumer friendly energy market.
“In relation to my first point and the need to increase the diversity of supply it is important that dependence on any one supplier such as Russia for gas, or the Middle East for oil is important.
“Such a need was seen in recent events such as Russia using its gas resources as a weapon to influence other countries and the formation within the USA of a high powered lobby movement that was motivated by the dependence of the US on imported oil from the Middle East, which if successful will reduce overdependence and help the environment.
“With regards to the environmental importance attached to renewable energy: let me highlight to you a few measurable facts and figures – CO2 levels are 1/3 up since the industrial revolution, the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1990, the oceans are warming and the sea levels are rising and the polar ice caps are melting at an ever increasing rates.
“Such changes within the climate, believe mainstream scientists, is caused by man burning carbon based fuels and with Northern Ireland almost totally dependent upon imported fossil fuel energy there exists an environmental as well as economic need to promote the development and use of renewable energy, especially considering the fact that whilst the only main alternative is wind turbine power which is now contributing 3% we cannot tell the wind to blow just as that party political broadcast sends us to switch on the kettle.
“In relation to the consumer? The Consumer end of the energy market is arguably more important, as it is here where efficiency measures can be encouraged and alternative sources used, especially given the fact that homes account for around 44% of energy consumed in N.I.
“This week an 11% rise in electricity prices was announced, unfortunately this will hit hardest those suffering fuel poverty and drive low-income households into fuel poverty. But it again emphasises our dependence on imported fossil fuels.
“But how do we address such issues? An answer is simple, good insulation of all homes is essential and yet I sometimes worry that this is neglected in the debate. For example, if you have all the latest PV cells, wind turbines etc in a poorly insulated house you are still heating the great outdoors.
“Another possible, yet urgent answer – ensuring grant systems are available and effective in fulfilling that which they intended. For example, although the recent grant system announced is, great and I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement of £59 million in grants, and whilst the grants, at a rate of up to 50%, are an improvement on the “Clear Skies” system, payback is still over 5 years for most installations and I wonder if most people today think that long term.
“So what is the way forward? For me I believe there exists the need for more joined up and strategic government. For example if you install a solar panel in an older house you will be given a grant but the govt then takes back 5% in a VAT charge! What kind of encouragement is this when they have signed up to reducing their CO2 emissions 20% by 2010?
“New public buildings like Antrim Borough Council offices can still be built without any alternative energy sources, the Housing Executive is performing renovations on many of its properties without installing them. If they did, there would also be a contribution to reducing fuel poverty.
Sustainable construction does not have to cost more, its just that we simply do not design and construct energy efficient buildings when we could and we should.
To this end I would like to see the “carrot” of the grant system helped by the “stick” of taxing inefficient buildings for this might be the one advantage our rate system has.
“The failure to tackle the environmental and long-term costs of dependence upon non-renewable energy sources is damaging and unsustainable. In an effort to encourage the development of renewable sourced energy conference there exists the need and therefore conference calls for advantageous and effective, subsidised premiums on those who produce, and those who use, renewable energy sources.”