Eddie’s O'Connor's lecture to Engineers Ireland, titled ‘A Vision For a Sustainable Future'
Lecture to Engineers Ireland, the Energy Institute and the Royal Dublin Society A Vision of a Sustainable Future By: Dr. Eddie O'Connor Chief Executive Officer, Mainstream Renewable Power RDS Dublin Wednesday 19 November 2008 Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to thank Liam Connellan for inviting me to give this lecture on "A Vision for a Sustainable Future". I am particularly grateful for the invitation because it is being hosted by three organizations I admire: Engineers Ireland, the Energy Institute and the Royal Dublin Society. I am an engineer by training, and temperament. I have been engaged in the energy sector all by career. And I have frequented this vast RDS complex many times throughout my life; including being part of the Innovation Committee for a period in the late 90's, the Spring Show, the Horse Show, the library, exhibitions, lectures, like this one, and not least, rugby matches at the week-end, cheering on Leinster. Invitation to Think But I admire the RDS for one reason more than any other. I just love its devotion to the promotion of science and industry, to the pursuit of best practice. Above all, I admire its standing invitation to people, like you and me, to think, to be inquisitive, and to be adventurous. Even, to be visionary. I remember that my father's generation was influenced, indeed, you might say it was inspired, by a series of lectures given here over a century and a half ago. Sir Robert Kane I refer, of course, to Sir Robert Kane's lectures on the 'Industrial Resources of Ireland', which took place before the Famine and were published later as a book, a very influential book, it should be said. Kane was inspired by lectures he attended in the RDS and they stimulated him to carry out chemical researches at his father's chemical factory in Henry St. Kane had the audacity to suggest that this country need not be poor, that it had natural resources which could be developed and that industry, in its true sense, could turn those resources into riches. In short, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, he had a vision of a better, and realizable, future. I stand here this evening as a beneficiary of that vision. He pointed to the bogs of Ireland as a vast reservoir of energy, and not just as a picturesque waste land. The new Irish state, under the leadership of Seán Lemass, acted on Kane's vision, and established Bord na Móna – of which I became Managing Director more than a century and a quarter after those lectures. Starting Point So, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, you will not be surprised if, this evening, I present you with a vision. And, that I do so in the confident expectation that it too will be realized. Let me begin by telling you what I won't be talking about. I will not recite the science of climate change. I take it as a given that we humans have to contain the rise in global temperature to less than 2º Celsius by 2050. Otherwise, we will have triggered irreversible and catastrophic damage to the planet. I assume that nobody here is a disciple of President Vaclav Klaus. Neither will I recall the arguments underlying the concept of peak oil. My friend Colin Campbell, now happily based in Ballydehob, has well established that the production of oil will peak shortly and then began to taper off. In fact oil from traditional sources has been static since 2005 at 74mb/d. Instead, I am going to take it as an absolute imperative that by 2050 we will have to reduce our Greenhouse Gas emissions by 80% at a time when the generation of electricity is expected to increase by 100%. This is my starting point. The first figure, of an 80% GHG reduction, comes from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The second, of a 100% increase in power generation, comes from the International Energy Agency, which is based in Paris as part of the OECD. An 80% reduction in GHG emissions, while power generation is being doubled, is some challenge, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen. But a sustainable future is one where these two targets have been met. That's a very simple definition of sustainability. Another definition is that we leave the planet no worse off than we found it. My Vision I want to offer a vision as to what the world would look like if we were to honour that obligation. Quite simply, we would have shifted one hundred per cent from fossil fuels to renewable energy as the source of power. We would have weaned ourselves off hydrocarbons We will be exploiting the power of the sun, the forces created by the rotation of the planet, the movement of the seas, and the heat locked just beneath the earth's crust. Looking into the future here's what I see. The sun and planet itself will be the source of sustainability. That strategy gives us the following forms of sustainable energy:
- Wind: both onshore and offshore;
- Sun: thermal, concentrated and photo-voltaic;
- Ocean: wave, tidal and currents;
- Hydro: dam and run of the river;