A new report published by Wind Energy Ireland has found that Ireland is not moving fast enough to meet the Government’s carbon emissions targets for the electricity sector by 2030.
The report – which was produced by specialist energy consultants Baringa and TNEI – adds that all existing plans and targets are simply inadequate.
It shows that even if all the existing plans for Ireland’s energy system were improved and accelerated, Ireland’s energy sector would still exceed its sectoral carbon emissions limit by 11 million tonnes of greenhouse gases by 2030.
The report highlights the need for extensive new energy grid infrastructure and for a more rapid exit from the use of coal and peat electricity.
It also urges that large volumes of offshore wind power be brought onstream far sooner than 2028, which is the current earliest date for offshore wind delivery according to industry experts.
Wind energy is currently saving more than double the carbon emissions savings of every other renewable energy technology in Ireland combined.
WEI says the industry has a pipeline of projects, as well as all the necessary expertise and investors to live within the extremely demanding sector carbon budget.
However, it warns that it cannot succeed in this without a determined response from every level of Government and the political system.
Today’s report sets out three key priorities for the Government ahead of the setting of sector carbon budgets.
The first is to accelerate the delivery of onshore wind and solar electricity generation in order to save carbon emissions as early in the decade. This is because the first offshore wind farm is not expected until 2028.
The second is the delivery of additional electricity infrastructure projects over and above those currently planned for.
This includes additional power line upgrades, as well as the rapid deployment of smart grid technologies, including a system called “Dynamic Line Rating” that allows the electricity system to carry more power when the weather is cold.
The third priority is to start work now on zero carbon technologies like battery storage, new electricity interconnectors, and demand-response technologies capable of lowering the demand for electricity at times of tight supply.
These measures would replace the need for fossil fuel-based back-up generation capacity, according to the report.
Chief Executive of Wind Energy Ireland Noel Cunniffe said Ireland’s electricity grid was designed for a 20th century fossil-fuel based economy and is no longer fit for purpose.
He said Ireland needs to build critically needed new infrastructure, like the North-South Interconnector, and invest in EirGrid and ESB Networks, to ensure that the system can operate with 100% renewables when the wind and solar is available.
Partner with Baringa Mark Turner said the analysis shows that it is “not just the end goal for decarbonisation that is crucial, but also how we get there”.
“The pace and timing of renewable deployment over the coming years will have a massive impact on cumulative CO2 emissions, which is how Ireland’s decarbonisation performance will be measured,” Mr Turner said.
“Substantial ongoing power generation from fossil fuels is rapidly eroding carbon budgets.
“We show that a renewed effort is needed right now to ensure the fastest possible deployment of onshore renewable energy and a stronger electricity grid. This must be viewed as a national priority if Ireland’s climate ambitions are to be met.”
Specialist Consultant with TNEI Jeff Kelliher said that there is “no silver bullet for transforming our power system towards net-zero”.
“However, early deployment of renewable energy, as well as enabling this energy access to the grid, are imperative,” Mr Kelliher said.
“The existing grid development strategy is not enough and is already incredibly ambitious in such a short timeframe. Building the level of new infrastructure required needs urgent and unprecedented action, from all corners of the industry.
“We need more infrastructure. We need policy fit for purpose. We need transparency and collaboration. We need new ways of thinking and courage to act on them. We need action.”