CER chairman to facilitate nuclear debate


The Irish Independent has reported that the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) chairman - Tom Reeves - has volunteered that his organisation would facilitate a nationwide debate on the issue of nuclear power in a bid to come up with a solution to the country's pending energy crisis.

Mr Reeves told the Oireachtas Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs that the need to find alternative fuel sources to meet future energy needs is even greater now, as neither wind power or any other renewable energy sources will satisfy demand.

"Nuclear technology has made enormous advances over recent years and operates to very high standards now. The big issue for Ireland is their size - they need to be smaller and more efficient" - Mr Reeves said. "If you want a plant by 2020, then you had better start now because of the level of objections."

Referring to the issue of climate change, Mr Reeves said that some action is needed to tackle the problem of growing emissions. "We are going to have to do something. A nuclear debate would be very worthwhile" - he said.

Mr Reeves told the Committee that, while facilitating such a debate "is not part of our core function", his office would be willing to do so. He added that Ireland was already importing a tiny amount of nuclear power via the Northern Ireland-Scotland interconnector.

However, he went on to explain that the power supplied from Scotland was no different to any other electricity. "The nuclear power is used to generate steam, which is used to generate electricity. It is not nuclear electricity - it is derived from nuclear power."

Nuclear power satisfies around 0.17pc of electricity demand in Ireland - all of it derived from the UK grid via the interconnector, according to data supplied to The Irish Independent by the Energy Regulator's office.

Based on the peak demand during winter months of about 4,800MW, this would mean that the equivalent of about 8MW - enough to power a medium-sized town - is derived from nuclear energy.

Mr Reeves also told the committee that his office was close to the roll-out of a pilot project to test the environmentally-friendly 'smart metering' technology. This is an expensive technology, he said - and, while there is no problem adapting new homes, the cost of updating meters in two million existing homes has proven a stumbling block to its introduction.

Italy is the only country in the EU to have introduced the new meters. Smart meters can tell customers when power is cheapest - allowing them to amend their consumption patterns to take advantage of lower rates. It would also allow customers to sell power back to the grid, assuming they generated surplus power from their own micro-generator, for instance.

Source - The Irish Independent