Renewables can’t be held to ransom with a missile, unlike fossil fuels - Eamon Ryan

Houthi attacks on shipping traffic show we’ll ‘never get security’ in old fossil fuel system, minister tells conference

The world’s fossil fuel energy supplies will continue to be at risk of terrorist attack as currently is happening on shipping travelling through the Red Sea, according to Minister for Climate and Energy Eamon Ryan.

Speaking at a briefing at an International Energy Agency meeting in Paris, he said attacks by Houthi rebels on traffic through the trade route in the Middle East “shows that we’ll never get security on the old fossil fuel system because it can always be held to ransom with a missile or an attack on a tanker”.

This would not happen with renewables because of their widespread availability, especially in the Middle East and Africa, he added. These regions were most affected by climate change, but often also had the biggest debt problems and experienced conflict.

Supporting them in renewables development rather than in a military response would bring a peace and security dividend, said Mr Ryan, who is co-chairing the event, which seeks to action Cop28′s commitment to transition away from fossil fuels and scale up energy innovation.


Ireland faced particular risks in relation to its energy infrastructure and underwater pipelines as well as cyber threats to its power system but the Government would be working with its EU partners and using Nato information in addressing such threats, he said.

Addressing a meeting of climate and energy ministers, Mr Ryan said while fossil fuels had phenomenal energy density, and solar and wind energy considerably less, renewables had the advantage of being widely available.

“It is increasingly becoming apparent that renewable energy may not have the density, but it has ubiquity. It’s everywhere, in different forms, hydro, solar, wind, biomass ... every part of the world has access to renewables, by definition free from the sun power.”

That “ubiquity is going to be a key strategic geopolitical reason why we make the shift [to renewables]. We will not fight over renewable resources. You cannot disadvantage one continent or another if we get the financing of the system right because it belongs to everyone”.

While fossil fuels had obvious storage advantages, use of electricity interconnectors and sharing power between countries in Europe was making up for that despite variability and intermittency of supplies, he said.

“We’re starting to see that, when you trust your neighbours in a shared electricity system, it really works. It’s better than storage. We need storage ... but more than anything else, we need to trust our neighbours and to extend that trust to Africa and the Middle East, and to the east and the west as well as this local example of it.”

Having a shared, ubiquitous, hyper-efficient source of renewables meant the necessary leap could be made. “The change is inevitable. We just need to speed up,” Mr Ryan said.

He supported calls for “financial innovation” to ensure scale-up of finance for development of renewables and clean energy technology. This needed to be complemented by policy innovation including improved access to green electricity “because things are happening quicker than anticipated”, Mr Ryan told climate and energy ministers from more than 40 countries.

The outcome of ramped up renewables research in the US and Europe needed to be shared with developing countries, he said, while new approaches in fostering behavioural change with people at the centre of the clean energy revolution had to be deployed.

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Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times