Battery storage to be critical part of Ireland’s energy transition, says Eamon Ryan

Storing energy using batteries could cut carbon emissions and save consumers €85 million on electricity bills annually

Energy storage using a range of battery technologies will be a core part of Ireland’s new industrial revolution, while playing a key role in balancing its power supply, according to Minister for Climate and Energy Eamon Ryan.

Speaking at the opening of the annual conference of Energy Storage Ireland in Dublin on Thursday, Mr Ryan said the island of Ireland was well suited to scaling up energy storage capacity because of its expertise in operating an isolated grid.

The State, however, “is going to have to play a bigger role and to act quickly with emergency gas-fired generation backup” to ensure a stable, secure, supply of electricity. Overall, there would be less gas usage, he predicted.

The REPowerEU strategy had clearly flagged what was coming; a new world of low-carbon; renewables, and energy efficiency, but Ireland had to be price competitive to retain FDI investment, while protecting householders, Mr Ryan said.

The conference heard nearly 500 megawatts (MW) of energy storage is connected to the all-island electricity system currently, while over 1,000MW of projects have planning permission. Further scale-up could cut Ireland’s annual carbon emissions by more than 1 million tonnes and reduce annual electricity bills by more than €85 million, according to a report commissioned by ESI.

Long-duration storage technologies can reduce “dayahead carbon emissions” in the daily energy market by 50 per cent, concludes the report by energy analysts Baringa. “This makes a material contribution to meeting ambitious 2030 power sector decarbonisation goals,” it adds.

The report models how the Irish electricity system would operate in 2030 with 2,000MW of energy storage, 1,600MW of which would be in the Republic, facilitating integration of renewables into the grid and ensuring power generation is not wasted. This would cut oversupply by up to 60 per cent, constraint volumes by up to 90 per cent, and curtailment by 100 per cent ‑ when there is excess electricity available.

ESI head Bobby Smith said: “No electricity system can operate without a backup and in Ireland this has traditionally been provided by fossil fuel generation. Over the next 10 years we can store increasing amounts of wind and solar power in energy storage projects and use it to support the system instead of relying on coal or gas,” he added.

The primary purpose of energy storage projects was to ensure a secure supply of electricity, he underlined. “If a fossil fuel generator should suddenly stop providing electricity there is an immediate risk to the system when replacement power must be found immediately to meet electricity demand. Energy storage projects in Ireland can, and do, respond in milliseconds in such situations to ensure the lights stay on.”

With the invasion of Ukraine and Ireland’s dependency on imported fossil fuels, electricity consumers had seen dizzying increases in their bills and the worst may yet be to come, Mr Smith said. “Energy storage is an essential part of decarbonising our electricity system. It allows us to fully harness our renewable energy resources and replace expensive, polluting, fossil fuels.”

To accelerate energy storage delivery, a co-ordinated strategy from policymakers in Ireland and Northern Ireland was needed “to redesign the electricity market to replace our fossil fuel backup with a cleaner, cheaper, alternative”, Mr Smith said.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times