State’s power grid to handle 80% renewable energy within a decade

Scaling up of power from offshore wind to be major driver of cheap electricity

Ireland’s power grid is to be transformed over the next decade to accommodate 80 per cent renewable energy, EirGrid has said

Ireland’s power grid is to be transformed over the next decade to accommodate 80 per cent renewable energy, EirGrid has said

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Ireland’s power grid is to be transformed over the next decade to accommodate 80 per cent renewable energy, EirGrid has said, with indications that the changes will not increase electricity prices for consumers.

The major driver of cheap electricity, which will also help meet a 30 to 50 per cent increase in demand up to 2030, would be a scaling-up of power from offshore wind – initially in the Irish Sea, according to a plan set out at the UN’s Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow by Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan and EirGrid chief executive Mark Foley.

Following extensive consultation, EirGrid is to build capacity to scale up microgeneration into the new grid infrastructure. This would see the public paid for excess power generated by rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines, which would feed into the grid. A provision of 500 megawatts on the grid would mean 12.5 per cent of power could potentially come from this source, with potential savings on annual electricity bills of 20-25 per cent for those supplying the grid.

The plan comprises 40 grid infrastructure projects, representing a total investment of more than €1 billion. This is on top of €2.2 billion in current projects.

“Under the roadmap, there will be greater control over where future generation and demand is located, minimising the need for the development of new electricity lines. Most of the new projects identified in the blueprint are upgrades to existing infrastructure,” Mr Foley said.

Data centres

In a major change of approach, EirGrid envisages locating major demand for power, including from energy-intensive industry and data centres, close to where clean energy is generated, which it predicts will be increasingly offshore.

Gas will continue to be used as a back-up fuel source in power generation at peak periods when renewable sources are not available, but EirGrid expects the State will gradually switch to green hydrogen fuel, which will be tied into offshore wind generation.

Mr Ryan said the EirGrid plan would be critical to meeting the goals set out in the Government’s new climate action plan.

“We must radically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and make the transition to cleaner, indigenous renewable energy,” he said. “Increased renewable energy will insulate Ireland from the volatility of international gas and carbon prices, which are near an all-time high.”