Large energy projects needed - IEA
Ireland needs to develop a range of large infrastructure projects in order to meet its ambitious targets for renewable energy, an international body has said.
The International Energy Agency, which says it works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member states and beyond, today published a review of Ireland’s energy policies.
It said that despite a severe economic downturn, the country had held to its ambitious energy targets to move itself towards a low-carbon economy.
But in order to reach our goal of generating 40 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, Ireland had to break its heavy use of imported fossil fuels, invest even more in renewable technologies, expand grid integration and improve energy efficiency.
IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven, who was in Dublin for the publication of the report, said a lot had been achieved, but there was more to do. Now was not the time for complacency, she said.
“At a time when many governments are shying away from their commitments to clean energy, Ireland has courageously resisted the temptation to scale back its own.”
Commendable reforms had continued despite the disruptive effects of the financial crisis on the Irish economy.
The IEA noted Ireland’s high dependence on imported oil and gas.
It said that while the push to develop renewable energies was commendable, it would 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 was unavailable.
“Two-thirds of Ireland’s electricity already comes from gas-fired generation, which adds to energy security concerns, particularly as 93 per cent of its gas supplies come from a single transit point in Scotland.
“The country must successfully develop a range of gas and electricity infrastructure projects and market solutions while continuing to integrate its energy markets with regional neighbours,” the IEA said.
It said regional integration of energy was also an ongoing development, in line with European Union targets.
In its key recommendations, the energy body said Ireland would need to develop a range of large infrastructure projects in order to meet ambitious renewable targets and improve our level of energy security.
On the electricity front, key projects included the development of new wind farms (close to 4,000 MW) of additional wind generation capacity was needed to meet our targets.
The organisation said that as was the case with numerous OECD countries, there were also “recurrent challenges” associated with gaining community acceptance for large-scale energy infrastructure projects, such as the delivery of indigenous gas.
Social acceptance and understanding of the need for new infrastructure was critical.
“It is important for the government to enhance public awareness in relation to the fundamental benefits in terms of security of energy supply, environmental sustainability and economic and regional development, as well as improving energy cost-competitiveness.”
Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte said today’s report was not a “clean bill of health” and there were matters that needed to be focused on in the next five to ten years.
But he said the intention was to stick to the 2020 targets.
“It’s our conviction based on expert advice that we will be able to comfortably realise 40 per cent by 2020,” Mr Rabbitte said.
- The Government should continue to encourage greater diversification and flexibility of gas supply in light of our high level of reliance on the fuel.
- Further enhance the consultation, planning and consenting process for critical energy infrastructure projects, with an emphasis on balancing the concerns of local communities with the economic, social and energy security benefits of the proposed projects.
- Ensure that participation on regional energy markets brings benefits to Irish consumers and certainty for investors by working closely with regional partners in the EU
- Ensure the powers of the energy regulator are enhanced as necessary in order to ensure that market and competition rules are strictly adhered to and that the interests of consumers were protected.