Delivering a clean energy message to Ireland’s Prime Minister

I can hardly believe the trip is already over!  The jet lag has worn off, but the warm feelings for Ireland and the people I met while there have not.  An incredible place with some of the nicest folks I’ve ever encountered, and scenery that will knock your wool socks right off.

As I said in my April 28 blog post, I spent last week in Ireland at a conference on responsible renewable energy development.  I am happy to report that the inaugural Robert John Kane Energy Symposium was wildly successful, and I am certainly hoping to be invited back for next year’s event.

My presentation on the importance of good stakeholder engagement and guiding renewable energy projects to low-conflict places was very well received, and I learned a lot from the other presenters and panels as well.  The attendees were particularly interested in our In the Zone report  on guiding solar development to low-conflict zones, and many went home with a copy.

The Q&A sessions and workshops were lively, and folks were extremely interested in how we do things here across the pond.  I learned that while we certainly don’t have everything figured out in the U.S., we are on the right track, and The Wilderness Society’s proactive approach to renewable energy policy and projects should continue to pay great dividends.  I’m looking forward to following up with the attendees to incorporate more of their good ideas into our work here in the U.S.

The panels wrapped up on Thursday afternoon, and after the gala dinner hosted by the conference organizers, we were ready for Friday’s culmination of the events.  I awoke to someone rustling in the bushes outside of my hotel room, pulled back the curtains and was surprised to see a Secret Service agent, earpiece, grey suit and all, making his way along the rooms.  Ireland’s new Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, had arrived.

Elizabeth Muldowney, my contact at An Taisce, Ireland’s leading conservation organization, had the honor of delivering our recommendations for improving Ireland’s renewable energy policy to Prime Minister Kenny, and she performed beautifully.  The recommendations covered a variety of issues, and I was really pleased that two of our key issues, improving opportunities for people to get involved in permitting decisions and guiding projects to low-conflict areas, were important components.

Prime Minister Kenny seemed to take the recommendations to heart, though I know much remains to be done to flesh out the details and put these good ideas to work.  After listening to a closing speech by the prime minister, I bade a fond farewell to Elizabeth, Willem, and my other new friends, and hit the road. 

A road trip through Ireland’s incredible west coast ended my trip, with stops at a wind farm near Drumshanbo, a hike at Connemara National Park and a wonderful night in Galway that happened to coincide with a great music festival.  What a country!Watching Ireland’s rugged shores recede in the distance out the plane window, I smiled, feeling so fortunate to have had such a wonderful experience.  I hope that my knowledge and participation was as valuable to them as it was to me.

Photo 1: Shamrocks by Alex Daue

Photo 2: Alex Daue at the Robert John Kane Energy Symposium. Photo by Gearoid O'Loingsigh.

Photo 3: Kylmore Abbey in Connemara County, Ireland. Photo by Alex Daue.