Ireland’s emissions targets, “simply inadequate” plans

July 4, 2022

Ireland's emissions targets, "simply inadequate" plans

A new report published by Wind Energy Ireland has found that Ireland is not moving fast enough to meet the government's carbon dioxide emissions target by 2030.

The report – which has been produced by specialist energy consultants Baringa and TNEI – adds that all existing plans and goals are simply insufficient.

It shows that even if all existing plans for Ireland's energy system were improved and accelerated, Ireland's energy sector would still exceed its sectoral CO2 emission limit by 11 million tonnes of greenhouse gases by 2030.

The report highlights the need for a comprehensive new infrastructure for the energy network and for a faster exit from the use of coal and peat electricity.

It also calls for large volumes of offshore wind power to be put into operation much earlier than 2028, which is the current earliest date for delivery of offshore wind power according to industry experts.

Wind energy currently saves more than twice as much CO2 as all other renewable energy technologies 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's carbon budget.

However, it warns that it cannot succeed in this without a decisive response from all levels of government and the political system.

Today's report sets out three main priorities for the government before setting the carbon budgets of the sector.

The first is to accelerate the supply of wind and solar production on land to save carbon dioxide emissions already during the decade. This is because the first offshore wind farm is not expected until 2028.

The second is the delivery of additional electrical infrastructure projects in addition to those currently planned.

This includes further power line upgrades, as well as the rapid implementation of smart grid technologies, including a system called “Dynamic Line Rating” that allows the electrical system to carry more power when the weather is cold.

The third priority is to start working now with carbon dioxide-free technologies such as battery storage, new electrical connections and demand-response technologies that can reduce the demand for electricity in times of tight supply.

These measures would replace the need for fossil fuel-based reserve capacity, according to the report.

Chief Executive of Wind Energy Ireland Noel Cunniffe said that Ireland's electricity grid was designed for a 20th century fossil fuel economy and is no longer suitable for the purpose.

He said Ireland needs to build new infrastructure that is critically needed, such as the North-South Interconnector, and invest in EirGrid and ESB Networks, to ensure that the system can operate with 100% renewable energy when wind and solar are available.

Partner with Baringa Mark Turner said that the analysis shows that “it is not only the ultimate goal of decarbonisation that is crucial, but also how we get there”.

“The pace and timing of renewable energy expansion in the coming years will have a huge impact on cumulative CO2 emissions, which is how Ireland's CO2 emissions will be measured,” Turner said.

“Significant ongoing power generation from fossil fuels is rapidly eroding the coal budget.

“We show that renewed efforts are needed right now to ensure the fastest possible development of renewable energy on land and a stronger electricity grid. This must be seen as a national priority if Ireland's climate ambitions are to be met.”

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Specialist consultant with TNEI Jeff Kelliher said that there is “no silver bullet for transforming our power system towards net-zero”.

“But early deployment of renewable energy, as well as enabling this energy supply to the grid, is imperative,” Kelliher said.

“The existing network development strategy is not enough and is already incredibly ambitious in such a short time frame. Building the level of new infrastructure requires urgent and unsurpassed action, from all corners of the industry.

“We need more infrastructure. We need a policy that suits the purpose. We need transparency and cooperation. We need new ways of thinking and the courage to act on them. We need action.”

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