Continued opposition to liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in the Republic is “foolhardy” in light of the long-term energy crisis facing the State, an engineers group of experts warn.
The Irish Academy of Engineering predicts that the EU is likely to import more gas through LNG terminals in the future as relations with its biggest supplier, Russia, have sundered over Ukraine war.
In an assessment of the current energy crisis, the academy notes that it has “long expressed reservations” about the risks the Republic was running by not having facilities to import LNG.
“Opposition to the construction of such facilities given the scale and likely duration of the current emergency seems remarkably foolhardy, to say the least,” the report warns.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed recently that the Government was actively considering allowing LNG terminals to be built here, but named no specific project.
Last year, Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, stalled such plans pending the outcome of a study of security of energy supplies, which is due by the end of next month.
War in Ukraine
In “Europe’s Energy Crisis: Implications for Ireland”, the academy says the EU may ration gas by the year’s end as the war in Ukraine worsens.
The document says the Republic may have to allow coal- and fuel-oil-fired power plants at Moneypoint and Tarbert to keep operating after their 2025 scheduled closing date.
Gas-fuelled plants may also have to switch to oil, while the engineers say the Government should consider recommissioning closed peat-fired generators in the midlands to use imported “biomass”, that is plants grown specifically for fuel.
Irish people are among Europe’s biggest gas users, mainly because gas is used to generate about half the country’s electricity.
The Corrib field provides about one-quarter of our needs while we import 75 per cent via Britain.
The academy maintains that even with plans to build offshore wind farms capable of generating 5,000 mega watts (MW) of electricity, equal to 12 or 13 conventional power plants, we will continue to need gas for decades to come to ensure reliable electricity supplies.
Supply less than demand
They argue that it would not matter if we added 25,000MW of wind by 2030, as regardless of how much capacity we have, there will be times when it meets “less than 1 per cent” of electricity demand and days when it provides less than 5 per cent.
Over the 24 hours to 7pm on March 25th, renewables provided less than 3 per cent of all electricity demand, even though there is more than 5,000MW of onshore wind-generated power here.
Meanwhile, the report predicts that the cost of building the proposed offshore wind projects could increase on the back of rising materials prices and interest rates.
This would have implications for Irish electricity prices, which are already among Europe’s highest, it adds.
The report, produced by the academy’s energy and climate action standing committee, chaired by Don Moore, says that, from its current situation, the Republic is unlikely to meet all its decarbonisation targets.
“And it will be necessary to ameliorate the economic pain to a tolerable level in the short and medium term,” the academy adds.