Ireland will fail to meet renewable energy targets because of planning bottlenecks, say experts

State’s target of generating 80 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2030 is being frustrated by planning delays and insufficient electricity grid capacity, report claims

The State’s target of generating 80 per cent of electricity from renewables by the end of the decade is being frustrated planning delays and “insufficient electricity grid capacity”, according to a new report.

The KPMG study, commissioned by Wind Energy Ireland, indicated that 95 per cent of industry experts believe planning bottlenecks, electricity connection issues and “a lack of joined-up thinking in policy development” will prevent Ireland reaching its 2030 renewable energy target.

It comes as 117 states, including Ireland, pledge to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2030 at the UN’s COP28 climate summit. Decarbonising the energy sector is seen as key to managing the current climate crisis.

The report highlighted planning as “the single biggest barrier” to delivering the Government’s ambitious Climate Action Plan.

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“Too few projects are coming through the planning system too slowly. The length and uncertainty of decision times, coupled with the risk of judicial reviews, undermines Ireland’s efforts to build onshore renewable energy,” it said.

It also claimed Ireland’s electricity grid was not currently fit for purpose. “It was designed for the fossil fuel economy of the late 20th century. We need a complete overhaul to make the grid fit for a modern economy – for an Ireland powered by renewables,” it said.

While a task-force to co-ordinate the delivery of offshore renewables had been established, the report said a similar approach should be put in place for onshore renewables, wind and solar, which will provide the overwhelming majority of savings in carbon emissions in this decade.

“This report should be a wake-up call to anyone who wants to cut our carbon emissions and end our dependency on imported fossil fuels. I believe we can, and must, be a leader in Europe’s energy revolution,” Noel Cunniffe, chief executive of Wind Energy Ireland, said.

“We have the natural resources, we have the project pipeline and we have the ambition,” he said.

“This report highlights the obstacles to achieving these ambitions. Our planning system is overwhelmed, our grid has reached capacity and our policy lacks that joined-up thinking needed to fulfil our potential. These challenges must be addressed, and fast,” Mr Cunniffe said.

“No one questions the commitment, at every level of Government, of those struggling to deliver these policies but they simply do not have anything close to the resources they need. Government and industry should be working together to accelerate the delivery of onshore renewables, to design a policy framework, a planning system and supportive grid infrastructure that is fully equipped to deliver our ambitions,” he said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times