Renewed commitment to green energy
23rd August 2012
Offshore wind: Looking to the future
23rd August 2012

Much achieved, more to do

IEA-review-2 A clear strategy for developing renewable energy and reform of the planning system are needed, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Ireland must invest even more in renewable technologies and expand grid integration, the IEA has concluded in its five-yearly review of Irish energy policies. The study found that funding of energy-focused R&D is strong and that Ireland has become a world leader for smart grid deployment.

“At a time when many governments are shying away from their commitments to clean energy,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said at the report launch, “Ireland has courageously resisted the temptation to scale back its own.” She added: “A lot has been achieved, yet there is more to do.”

The IEA report concludes that while Ireland’s renewable deployment drive is commendable, it will result in “an increased reliance on natural gas, as gas-fired power plants will be required to provide flexibility in electricity supply when wind power is unavailable.” With 62 per cent of Ireland’s electricity from gas-fired generation in 2010, the push for renewables “poses certain concerns” regarding gas security.

Successful development of a range of large infrastructural projects will be needed to meet Ireland’s renewable targets (and to improve the island’s energy security), it states. New wind farms are required, along with construction of transmission and distribution lines to bring wind power from the Atlantic seaboard to demand centres. The completion of additional North/South transmission capacity will also be needed.

“Yet as is the case in numerous OECD countries,” the review notes, “there are also recurrent challenges associated with gaining local community acceptance for large-scale energy infrastructure projects.” The authors state that the Government must enhance public awareness of the benefits.

A more integrated approach by project developers to early engagement with all stakeholders will ensure “a more balanced public debate” and timely delivery of projects, it notes.

Costs and competitiveness should be a key focus in the Government’s forthcoming energy policy framework (2012-2030), “notably with regard to subsidies” This should bear in mind “the potential for tension” between the objectives of promoting transition to a low-carbon economy and ensuring that consumers have reliable and cost-efficient energy sources.

Welcoming the report, Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte said that he was “satisfied that the review is supportive of the development of renewable energy potential while underlining the challenges to meeting the 2020 targets.”

In its profile of Ireland’s energy mix, the agency found that Ireland’s 95 per cent share of fossil fuels in total primary energy supply (TPES) in 2010 was the second highest among the IEA’s 28 member countries (after Luxembourg). However, it does have the fourth highest share of wind energy in TPES.

Renewables recommendations

• implement a clear strategy for evaluating and developing renewable energy and meeting the 2020 targets;

• maintain funding support to develop low-carbon technologies where Ireland has comparative advantage;

• enhance consultation and planning processes for critical energy infrastructure projects;

• address potential impediments to further bioenergy development, develop cost-effective support mechanisms through closer alignment of energy and agriculture policies;

• review shortcomings of Gate 3 regarding delivery of incremental renewable sources to improve outcomes of future gate procedures; and

• increase public awareness of renewable energy benefits and the policy framework.

Renewables research recommendations

• ensure full collaboration between SEAI, Science Foundation Ireland and all relevant agencies and institutions for programme development and capacity building; and

• concentrate research efforts in ocean energy to accelerate development.