Archive for the 'Energy' Category

SinglePlanetLiving2 – Energy Subsidy

August 13th 2019

I started last January thinking I would find time to write pieces for this blog at fairly regular intervals, but life, the universe and everything got in the way of that noble intention, and so the second instalment is only surfacing now. Such is life.

There are many ways in which we humans are unique amongst the myriads of species on this planet. One that rarely gets mentioned is the fact that we require extra energy from nature, as well as our food. This is our energy subsidy. All other species get all they need through their “food”. For example most animals consume food through their mouths and they convert this internally into all the energy they need to keep them warm, to grow, to move and to generally operate all the systems in their bodies. For plants they absorb nutrients and water via their roots as well as taking carbon dioxide from the air which they convert to glucose and oxygen, and the energy they get from this they then use to operate all their internal systems and to grow. Like other animals we too consume food to give us the energy to run our internal systems and to grow, but then we also require further energy inputs from various sources in order to survive, such as clothing to keep us protected from the elements, and it is this extra energy that is unique to us – our energy subsidy.

When the upright apes from which we have evolved first appeared on the planet, they, like all other animal species, basically had no need of an energy subsidy apart from their food, but since then we have evolved to require this energy subsidy for a variety of purposes. The first manifestations of this were probably in the form of making tools and weapons, and this further evolved into us making shelter and housing for ourselves, all made from materials we found in our environment, some plant derived such as wood, others mineral in nature such as stone. At some stage we significantly lost much of our fur, and this meant we then required clothing which would initially have come from animal hides, a by-product of our hunting the animals for food.

The first big leap occurred when we discovered how to light and control fires, and we used fires to cook our food and to keep our caves or housing warm, particularly at night. The source of fuel for the fire was wood and other dead plant matter. All of this was completely sustainable long term, as we were just using materials that were abundant in our environment, many of them “waste” from other processes, such as the hides for our clothing and the sticks we gathered to burn.

The next big leap was the development of agriculture and the domestication of animals. This required us to store food long term, and keep it fresh and away from vermin, requiring an energy subsidy in the form of extra buildings and storage vessels, and also the development of tools for agriculture. Also with the domestication of animals like horses, camels and donkeys, we now had the ability to travel much further than we could previously on foot, and it also meant we could trade over longer distances, leading to the development of things such as the Silk Road. As we continued to evolve and “progress”, so the energy subsidy we required to live went up. In ancient times this was all perfectly sustainable as we were getting that energy subsidy sustainably from the environment directly around us.

As societies continued to develop and evolve, so the energy subsidy required increased. As we moved away from being purely a rural and agricultural people, and we started to develop cities and hierarchical structures in our society, so the energy subsidy required continued to rise. In the Roman Empire for example, much of that energy subsidy for the Roman elite came from slaves and servants. As we moved forward into the Middle Ages, so that subjugation of “lesser” people as slaves and servants by the elite continued, to provide them with the energy subsidy necessary to live the high life. This continued with the development of plantations for sugar and rubber in the “New World”, which required huge amounts of energy subsidy in the form of slaves imported from Africa.

Up until the Industrial Revolution, this was all quite sustainable from an environmental perspective, though a lot of the moral and ethical issues within society were far from sustainable. The key change that happened in the Industrial Revolution from an energy perspective is that we started to supplement and replace the labour of humans and animals with energy from fossil fuels, first coal, and later oil and gas. The photo shows an early steam engine (Newcomen engine) in action. This is really the point at which it all started to become unsustainable from an environmental perspective.

The issue with fossil fuels is right there in the name – fossils. All fossil fuels are the ancient remains of large amounts of plants and animals that got trapped in a particular way at some point in geological time, and over millions of years the energy in their remains concentrated in such a way that it became a useful fuel for us, all those millions of years later. All living matter is based on carbon, and basically living things, particularly plants, take carbon from the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, and turn it into other substances which trap the carbon in non-gaseous form. Fossil fuels are full of this trapped carbon, and when we burn them, we release the carbon that was trapped from the atmosphere millions of years ago back into the atmosphere again. This is the crux of the problem with our use of fossil fuels. Since the Industrial Revolution we have been releasing more and more of this carbon, which was removed from the atmosphere all those millions of years ago, back into the atmosphere again. We have completely overloaded the natural systems of the earth, so that the amount of carbon dioxide the natural systems can take out of the atmosphere are far exceeded by the amount we are pumping into the atmosphere, and so the amount of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) in our atmosphere is increasing unsustainably, and this has now reached a crisis point.

The challenge facing humanity now, and it is a truly enormous challenge, is to very rapidly change how we do things so that our energy subsidy is back within sustainable limits again. By sustainable in this context I mean that the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we emit is within the limits that the earth’s natural systems can deal with, and that the amount of greenhouse gases are no longer increasing in the atmosphere. Nothing else has energy in such concentrated form as fossil fuels, but we have at this stage used a lot of them up, and must leave the rest of them where they are, in the ground. This means fundamentally re-examining literally everything we do, because everything we do requires an energy subsidy, and trying to do it in a way that minimises that energy subsidy. In reality this means that a lot of we do and take for granted in the modern world, we will simply have to stop doing, and very soon, as there is simply no way of continuing to do this in a sustainable way. I would put the aviation industry into this category, and I will deal with that in detail in another blog post very soon. Other things we do we will hopefully be able to continue doing, but maybe to a much lesser extent or by changing radically how we do it. I would put shipping in this category, for example.

Renewable energy sources (wind, solar, water, etc) will be able to provide some of the energy subsidy we need into the future in a sustainable way, but they will not be able to provide an energy subsidy to us to anything like the extent that we are used to in the “developed” world. We simply have to reduce our energy subsidy substantially. Those of us in the developed world are currently living as if we have 3 or 4 planets. We only have one. In energy terms, single planet living means we have to reduce our consumption of energy subsidy to a third or a quarter of what it currently is. This doesn’t mean just turning off a few lights and using a bit less electricity. Everything we consume is embodied energy. We have to cut our consumption to only the essentials. We have to travel a huge amount less and better. We have to use way less energy in our homes: bye-bye tumble drier, bye-bye air conditioner and bye-bye a lot more gizmos and gadgets. If we humans are to survive on this planet in any sort of numbers, we have to live a hell of a lot smarter than we do today. And we only have a decade to make substantial changes. The emergency is now.

At the start of the Industrial Revolution there were less than a billion humans on the planet. The population is now approaching 8 billion, and is expected to rise to approaching 10 billion. This population explosion has been mirrored by an explosion in our energy subsidy. In many ways our population explosion is dependent on that energy subsidy. This leads to the thorny question: how many humans is planet Earth able to sustain? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I intend to return to explore it in detail in a later blog post.

For the moment, for there to be any hope of single planet living, we must develop a deep understanding of the energy subsidy we rely on, and the implications of that. There is energy in everything, and everything is energy. We must learn to live with a lot less energy. We must learn to live with a lot less of everything.

Dominick Donnelly’s submission to the Oral Hearing on the proposed Ringaskiddy Incinerator

Please note that I was censored from reading the latter part of point 5 of this submission into the record at the hearing by the Inspector. It’s all about the money, and this tries to get to the heart of the money issues, but that was deemed to be irrelevant to the proceedings. We cannot live in fear of asking the difficult questions. If there is nothing to hide, then let them come out in the open. If they don’t, then they must have something to hide.

Carrigaline Court Hotel, Thursday 28th April 2016

1) Introduction:
I am Dominick Donnelly. I work as a secondary school teacher of Maths, Applied Maths and Physics in Cork City. While I currently live in Cork City, I have in the past 20 years lived in various parts of Cork Harbour, in Passage West, Cobh and Carrigaline. I have been involved with CHASE since its inception, and thereby with fighting this proposal. I had the extreme honour to be elected to Passage West Town Council for one term, and I served as Mayor of Passage West for a year, and I also chaired the CHEPA campaign to fight the Port of Cork’s proposed reclamation of the Oyster Bank off Ringaskiddy for a number of years. I am a long-standing member of the Green Party, but I wish to make it clear that this is my personal submission, and not that of the Cork Green Party, which will be delivered later in this hearing. I give this background information just to make it clear that I have had a long involvement with Cork Harbour politics. In this submission I will focus on a number of key issues which I think have not been adequately dealt with elsewhere, but I will not seek to labour points that I think have been dealt with sufficiently well by others.

2) This Incinerator is Not Needed Nationally or Regionally
When we started on this journey in Cork Harbour 15 years ago there were no mass-burn incinerators in the country. At present there is one in operation, in Carranstown Co. Meath, with a second enormous one under construction in Poolbeg, Dublin. These two combined have sufficient capacity to deal with the country’s waste suitable for incineration, particularly when you factor in that there a number of cement kilns around the country currently looking at using the same waste streams to fire their kilns. In this situation even the most ardent fans of incineration would see that it is highly premature to be considering adding to this incineration capacity at present, at least until Poolbeg comes on stream late next year, and to see how that affects the waste market. This is so enormous it is bound to have a large effect on the waste market nationally. Also given the fact that we are going to have to move towards a more circular economy in the very near future given that we live on a finite planet and there simply isn’t enough stuff on the planet for us to continue living the wasteful lives we currently do, there must be falling levels of waste arising in the coming decades, and more of this will be going for reuse and recycling. As a planning authority surely in it incumbent on the board to take into account what effect overcapacity of incineration in the country would have. The Swedes learned this lesson many years ago, and have relied on substantial amounts of imported waste to keep their incinerators going, including taking large amounts of waste from their neighbour Norway. We should learn from their lessons. At least the Swedes had the good sense to attach district heating systems to their incinerators and thus derive the maximum benefit from this noxious technology. Given the location of this proposal there is no realistic likelihood of this ever happening in Ringaskiddy. Indaver will say that under our national waste policy that each region should be dealing with its own waste, and that is true. But those regional waste regions were substantially redrawn by Minister Hogan in 2011, and if required they can easily be redrawn again. The residents in the area have always contested that the reason this proposed facility is located where it is adjacent to a port is to facilitate the importation of waste. To me that is the only plausible explanation for the location of this proposed facility.

3) Overdevelopment of the Ringaskiddy Peninsula
This incinerator is proposed to be located in what is surely the most overdeveloped part of the whole country. Enough is enough. On the Ringaskiddy peninsula 50 years ago there were a few small villages and a lot of farms. The amount, and national significance, of the developments that have taken place on the peninsula since have contributed enormously to the national economy and to general progress, but they have happened without any realistic development of the community infrastructure, and realistically it has to end. In the area you have an expanding port facility, the National Maritime College, the only naval base in the country, one of only a handful of crematoria in the country, the growing nationally and internationally significant iMERC campus, the blossoming tourism and heritage potential of Spike Island, along with an enormous amount of industry. All this with only one road in, an inadequate bus service, no hope of a rail service and a local infrastructure that is basically at breaking point. There is no other village in the country has had to endure this amount of development. How on earth could it considered appropriate planning to put an incinerator in on top of that? It just can’t.

4) Zero Acceptance by Local Population
What I fear most should this proposal be granted planning permission would be the effect of that decision on the local population around Cork Harbour. In my time I have canvassed a very large amount of houses on both sides of the harbour, and I have met a huge number of the wider harbour community. Were this development to go ahead, I sincerely believe that it would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There is just absolutely no acceptance of the need for this facility, and were it to be granted permission large sections of the harbour population would I believe lose faith completely in officialdom in this country, and the mechanisms by which decisions are made on their behalf. What the consequences of this would be I don’t know, but there is certainly the potential there for things to get very ugly. I say this not by way of threat, but by way of my assessment of the mood and views of the population of the harbour area. Other developments have been opposed, but there has been a recognition of potential benefits of those developments too. In my experience, nobody feels that they would derive any benefit from this proposal, and in this way it is different to other developments, and the community response is also therefore different and more heartfelt.

5) National Policy and Politics
I am a political animal by my nature. Politics is often misconstrued, but it is at its core a mechanism by which decisions are reached on behalf of the population. All national policy comes about as a result of politics, including waste policy. This hearing has heard some very valuable contributions already from a number of politicians from the area, not one of whom it must be noted have spoken up in favour of this proposal, thus underlying the depth of the communities’ opposition. Whatever their personal convictions, no politician in the area is going to dare speak up in favour, as that would be political suicide. I wish to highlight a couple of decisions and how they have brought us to where we are today. Incineration was first put on the national agenda and became part of national policy about 20 years ago by a Fianna Fail led Government. Shortly afterwards a number of proposed incinerator applications began happening around the country, including in Ringaskiddy. Of all of those, most of the applications died a death, with only two getting permission to date, Carranstown and Poolbeg. Locally we thought this application had died a death too due to the valiant efforts of the community to fight it, until it reappeared on the agenda recently again. During the Government of 2007-2011 of which my own party was part, and my party colleague John Gormley was Minister for the Environment, significant changes were made to waste policy, including the introduction of incineration levies. He was unable to ban it outright as there were at that stage two existing planning permissions in place, but he made sure that they were not economically viable, and little progress was made on their construction. It was only with the advent of the Fine Gael / Labour Government in 2011 that incineration was put firmly back on the national agenda. One of the first decisions made by the incoming Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, or Minister against the Environment as I like to call him, was to get rid of the incineration levies, and to redraw the national waste regions. Much as I welcome the contributions of the local representatives to this hearing, none of them said anything about this decision of Phil Hogan’s at the time, and I find it duplicitous and nimbyist of them to oppose this application now. I ask the question of Fine Gael, and particularly Minister Coveney, were Fine Gael paid to remove the incineration levy? Obviously major lobbying of them went on, but I wonder how much of this lobbying went on within the confines of Fine Gael fundraising events such as golf classics or dinners? I do not expect an answer to that question, but it is to me the only rational explanation as to why the incineration levy was removed. It is the removal of the levy that has led directly to the construction of the incinerators in Carranstown and Poolbeg, and to this application now. There was thereby a huge financial incentive for those involved in incineration to have the levy removed. I also ask Indaver and John Ahern were they involved in any interactions with Fine Gael and Minister Hogan at this time? Has John Ahern or any other Indaver executives ever attended a Fine Gael fundraiser, such as a golf classic or a dinner? These seem to be the locations where much of national importance is actually decided, and if John Ahern has not got involved in this, then surely he is not doing his job properly. Again these are probably rhetorical questions and I do not expect to get a true answer.

6) Ireland Will Not Meet Its Emission Targets
Last week the EPA issued a report illustrating how Ireland has not a hope of reaching its greenhouse gas emission targets by 2020, and in fact we will be quite far away from them. This just highlights how we have failed, and continue to fail to take the issue of climate change seriously, both nationally and individually. This proposal can in no way be construed to be contributing in any positive sense to the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions, and in fact by its very nature it would contribute to the continuation of the wasteful linear economy, rather than contributing to a shift to a more circular economy, which we desperately need if we are to have any hope of preventing runaway climate change in the near future.

I would like to finish Mr Inspector by reading a poem I wrote at the start of this hearing last week. I think it encapsulates the unbalanced nature of the proceedings here.

Round 3

Here we go again,
into the fray.

The Ringaskiddy Incinerator. Oral Hearing. Round 3.

Another bland hotel conference room,
Mr. Inspector on his dais.

To the right
a phalanx of corporate prostitutes in their grey uniformity,
keeping tight formation,
dutifully waiting to do their pimps’ bidding.
Let no-one break the line,
or dare show a glimpse of humanity.

To the left
a huddle of blinkered technocrats,
hoping to get out alive
so that they can go back,
back to hiding quietly
behind their layers of bureaucracy.
They are really not there to fight.

Out front
a motley rabble,
full of hubbub and colour and chaotic consternation
loud, proud and full of vigour
for the fight ahead.
At their centre, a quiet man in a suit
directing the show,
or more like letting the chaos unfurl gently,
the unkempt hair exposing his true loyalties.
He is not really a suit,
more at ease amongst the passions of the masses
than the cold conformity of complicity.

Amidst all this ruile buile of preparation
the fourth estate flit,
notepads at the ready,
thrusting microphones in front of all and sundry,
recording the battle cries and the bon mots.

At the top Mr. Inspector calls proceedings to order.
The rabble quietens and takes their positions,
armed only with love and passion
and bonds of conviction that bind them tighter than any mere mercenaries.
Let the battle commence.
I know which side I’m on.

Dominick’s oral submission to An Bord Pleanala on Ringaskiddy incinerators

Click on link:  https://dominickdonnelly.com/links/dominicks-oral-submission-to-indaver-oral-hearing/

Dominick’s written submission to An Bord Pleanala on Ringaskiddy incinerators

https://dominickdonnelly.com/links/written-submission-to-an-bord-pleanala-on-ringaskiddy-incinerators/

Cllr. Donnelly is confident incinerators will not get planning permission

26th April 2009

The oral hearing for the Ringaskiddy incinerators starts on Monday 27th April, and will proceed for about three weeks.  Cllr. Dominick Donnelly, Green Party member of Passage West Town Council and candidate for Cork County Council for the Carrigaline electoral area, who has been part of the steering committee of CHASE (Cork Harbour Area for a Safe Environment) for the past eight years, is confident that finally the threat of the incinerators in Cork Harbour will be refused at this oral hearing.

Cllr. Donnelly said: “At the last An Bord Pleanála oral hearing into the Ringaskiddy incinerators over five years ago, the only reason planning permission was granted was on the grounds that incineration was part of Government policy at the time.  That is clearly not the case any more.  The Minister for the Environment John Gormley has made a number of statements to that effect, in advance of the complete review of waste management policy due later this year.”

Cllr. Donnelly continued:  “A number of other things are different this time, which should make it impossible for Indaver to get planning permission.  An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission for an incinerator in Rathcoole in Co. Dublin, on grounds which can largely be replicated in Ringaskiddy.  Also the board refused the Port of Cork planning permission in Ringaskiddy last year for their container terminal on transport grounds, which would also apply to the incinerators, albeit to a lesser extent.  Also the Department of the Environment have put in a very strongly worded submission on this application, in which they show that Indaver have basically ignored the fact that their proposed incinerators are in very close proximity to Special Areas of Conservation in Cork Harbour, such as Monkstown Creek and Loughbeg.  All of this adds up to it hopefully being inevitable this will be the end of the road for the threat of incineration in Cork Harbour.”

Minister Ryan visits DePuy in Ringaskiddy to see their energy initiatives

Cllr. Dominick Donnelly, Minister Eamon Ryan and Senator Dan Boyle with senior managment at DePuy, Ringaskiddy

Cllr. Dominick Donnelly, Minister Eamon Ryan and Senator Dan Boyle with senior managment at DePuy, Ringaskiddy

During his visit to Cork on Friday 17th April, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan, visited the DePuy plant in Loughbeg, Ringaskiddy, to see their energy inititiatives first hand.  The picture above shows, from left to right, John Lynch (Plant Manager DePuy), James Winters (Engineering Manager DePuy), Dan Donovan (Technical Services Team Leader DePuy), Cllr. Dominick Donnelly, Minister Eamon Ryan, Senator Dan Boyle and the Cork hurler Donal Og Cusack, who is leading DePuy’s energy initiative.  In the background is the test mast which DePuy are currently using to get test readings in advance of submitting a planning application for a wind turbine.

As part of the visit, Minister Ryan was given an excellent presentation by Donal Og Cusack, as the leader of DePuy’s energy initiative, and Plant Manager John Lynch, in which they outlined the very serious way in which DePuy are taking energy issues.  For many years DePuy have been reducing their energy needs while increasing their output, and this has led them to very substantial financial savings.  Donal Og Cusack described how DePuy has trained its employees to take energy issues as seriously as they take safety issues.  He also described how over half of the electricity they buy is from renewable sources, and how they are looking at different ways of generating their own electricity on site.  As a start on this, DePuy have come together with four other large plants in Ringaskiddy, and the five companies will be submitting planning applications later in the year to install wind turbines on the Ringaskiddy peninsula.  DePuy are also installing a woodchip boiler, which will be up and running later this year.  They are also exploring the potential of such technologies as geothermal and wave power.

Cllr. Dominick Donnelly, Green Party member of Passage West Town Council and candidate for Cork County Council, who accompanied Minister Ryan on his visit, said:  “It is wonderful to see a company such as DePuy is taking energy issues so seriously.  DePuy continue to grow their business, and are currently employing about 700 people, with an extension currently under construction.  DePuy are a model to other businesses as to how taking energy issues seriously leads to substantial savings on the company’s bottom line.”

Thousands of green jobs to be created by ESB

16th April 2009

Announcement proves that going green will save money and the economy says Cllr. Donnelly

Local Green Party member of Passage West Town Council and candidate for Cork County Council, Cllr. Dominick Donnelly has welcomed today’s announcement by the ESB that up to 6,000 jobs and training opportunities are to be created through green projects and initiatives. The ESB confirmed that 3,700 jobs will be created in the areas of wind energy, smart networks and smart metering, electric vehicles, construction and energy servicing.

Cllr. Donnelly said: “Going green saves money and creates jobs. Today’s announcement is proof of this. As an island nation we can use our vast wind and wave resources to power our homes and our cars. In order to do this, we need to install and upgrade our electricity network in a smart way – and this is where many of the jobs announced by the ESB will come from.”

 “The Green Party in Government has taken Irish energy in a new direction. Our initiatives such as smart meters, smart networks, electric cars, renewable energy, green technology and home insulation are bearing fruit. Now we must look at how these jobs can be created and sustained at a local level,” continued Cllr. Donnelly.

Specific projects resulting in the creation of new jobs include:

  • The roll-out of Smart Metering and the implementation of ESB’s Smart Networks Strategy which will lead to 1,500 jobs by 2013.
  • Novus Modus (ESB’s new energy technology fund) has committed to a five year programme of investment in clean energy and energy efficiency (350 jobs). The fund has just invested €2.5 million in the Cork-based company, Nualight, which is creating up to 60 additional jobs locally.
  • Electric vehicles (600 jobs) including the roll-out of the infrastructure to allow electric vehicles to be recharged.
  • Working with Sustainable Energy Ireland, ESB will offer free home-energy efficiency surveys to 25,000 householders and subsequent support to allow them implement necessary measures.
  • In order to alleviate the current severe shortage of electrical engineers, ESB will finance 50 apprentices each year for the next four years to allow them to achieve a third level engineering degree.  

In addition, ESB will sustain a further 1300 jobs outside the company through ongoing investment programmes in the company’s power generation and networks infrastructure. The company will recruit 250 engineers and 50 other professionals and train 800 apprentices over the next five years, including 400 FAS apprentices who recently lost their jobs and will now be able to complete their craft training, paid for by ESB. 

Cllr. Donnelly concluded: “There’s no denying that times are tough, but with proper planning and investment, we can help kickstart the economy, get people off our doles queues and sustain our energy future, while helping the  environment too.”

 


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