A new scheme designed to diversify the State’s renewable energy production and boost its chances of meeting key EU targets has been approved by the Government. The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is designed to help the State meet its renewable pledges up to 2030. Its first priority is to boost renewable energy production quickly to help turn 16 per cent of the State’s energy needs “green” by 2020. The scheme will incentivise the introduction of sufficient renewable electricity generation by promoting investment by community groups in green projects. Offshore wind and tidal projects will be central if the State is to meet its targets, while it is expected to also support an immediate scale-up of solar projects. Projects looking for support under the scheme will need to meet pre-qualification criteria, including offering the community an opportunity to invest in and take ownership of a portion of renewable projects in their local area.
The RESS scheme introduces a new auction system where types of energy will bid for State support. It is proposed that the scheme be funded through the Public Service Obligation Levy, which is a charge on consumers to support the generation of electricity from renewable sources. Individual projects will not be capped, but the Government will limit the amount that a single technology, such as wind or tidal, can win in a single auction. The auctions will be held at frequent intervals throughout the lifetime of the scheme to allow the State to take advantage of falling technology costs. The first auction in 2019 will prioritise “shovel-ready projects”. “By not auctioning all the required capacity at once, we will not be locking in higher costs for consumers for the entirety of the scheme,” Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten said. In effect it should make it easier for solar and offshore wind to get investment, yielding multiple billions for green projects over the next 15 years.
It is hoped renewable energy will represent 40 per cent of the State’s gross electricity consumption by 2020, and 55 per cent by 2030, subject to determining the cost-effective level that will be set out in the draft National Energy and Climate Plan, which must be approved by the EU and in place by the end of 2019. In addition the scheme is intended to deliver broader energy policy objectives, including enhancing security of supply. “This scheme will mark a shift from guaranteed fixed prices for renewable generators to a more market-oriented mechanism [auctions] where the cost of support will be determined by competitive bidding between renewable generators,” said Mr Naughten. The next step for the Government is to secure EU approval for the package, which typically takes six to nine months. It is estimated that the first auction will be in the second half of next year.
AA Roadwatch has unveiled plans for a new mobile charging unit for electric vehicles, the first of their kind in Europe. As a result of the growing number of electric cars on Irish roads, the company say the charging units will address the concerns of motorists that drive electric powered vehicles and who worry about potentially running out of power. The breakdown assistance provider has teamed up with Australian company Club Logistics Solutions to develop the charging units, which will be powered directly by the AA rescue van as opposed to a separate generator.
Commenting on the unveiling Conor Faughnan, AA Director of Consumer Affairs stated: “Our AA Rescue team have a long and proud history of going above and beyond to meet the needs of broken down motorists across the country, and the purchase of these mobile charging units is the next step on that journey. In that time electric cars have evolved significantly and along the way we’ve seen a similar evolution in charging and emergency assistance options for EVs. Of all the mobile units we have seen this is by far the most impressive, easily deployed and environmentally friendly options.”
Mr Faughnan added that the launch of the units will address the concern of running out of power. “This is a huge step forward for electric vehicle owners in Ireland and a significant innovation for our AA Rescue team as they continue to meet the demands of our members. We know from research that we’ve undertaken in the past that the fear of running out of power is a major concern of Irish motorists when it comes to going electric and we hope that knowing this solution exists will help some people ditch petrol and diesel powered cars.” According to the AA, it will take 20 minutes for the company to provide 15pc of battery charge using the mobile charging unit.
The Irish Government has pledged to ban the sale of new cars with tailpipes by the year 2030, as part of its commitment to environment issues. Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten said that he told his European counterparts at a European Council meeting this week that Ireland “had set itself an objective” to ban the sale of all new cars with a tailpipe by 2030.
But he said that in order to do that, the European automotive industry needed to ramp up its efforts to reduce emissions and produce zero emissions cars. “They really need to drive ambition in this area so that we can reduce overall carbon emissions within the transport sector that make up one quarter of all carbon emissions within the EU.” There are widespread plans to ensure there are zero-emission vehicles on roads. Alternative fuel options are being looked at to introduce green-energy fleets for Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann and school buses. Ireland could be forced to pay up to €75 million each year if it doesn’t meet its EU renewable-energy targets by 2020 – with many experts and politicians saying it won’t meet those targets.
Naughten also discussed how to tackle cigarette butt litter with his European counterparts. Every single cigarette butt has 12,000 micro strands of plastic in it. As a result on a global level, we have 1,900 million strands of plastic going into our water streams every single second. And it’s not just a problem of microplastics getting into our waters, also the cigarette filters themselves are there to block tar and other chemicals going into the smoker’s lungs. “But they end up in our water courses, in our rivers having an impact on aquatic life, and in our fish stocks.” The 2017 National Litter Pollution Report showed that half of all street litter is made up of cigarette butts. It’s understood that on-the-spot litter fines are going to be increased from €150 to €250 in an attempt to tackle the problem.
Renewable energy, including bioenergy, is thriving in the town Akureyri, in northern Iceland, with the community actively moving in the direction of carbon neutrality. The energy transition team at Orkustofnun visited Akureyri in order to look into the current status of renewable energy in transport and in utilization of biomass in the Eyjafjörður Area, northern Iceland. Orkustofnun’s branch in Akureyri was visited, and Guðmundur H. Sigurðarson, Managing Director of Vistorka, presented the company’s activities and the status of these issues including achieving carbon neutral society in Akureyri.
Several charging stations for electric cars are available for use in Akureyri and some of them where visited. The stations are owned and operated by ON, Norðurorka and Rarik. Vistorka received funding from the Energy Fund for development of infrastructure for electric cars which will result in 11 electric charging stations in the North of Iceland. Most of the projects described below have been funded by the Energy Fund as well as supported by Orkusetur.
The compost company Molta was visited, where organic waste is collected from homes and companies in the Eyjafjörður Area and beyond for compost production. Production of biodiesel from animal waste is planned at the facility. The company Orkey was also visited, where biodiesel is produced from waste cooking oil. The biodiesel is used in buses in Akureyri, on fishing vessels and in asphalt production. The aim is to increase production by adding animal waste as mentioned previously. Methane is currently produced from the old landfill in Akureyri and “harnessing” of the manure in the Eyjafjörður area is on the drawing board to further increase methane production to fuel 2-3000 cars per year.
The use of electric bikes by the employees of Norðurorka is also of interest, as electric bikes are relatively inexpensive, convenient in a hilly and windy environment and use a renewable power source. In winter the bikes’ studded tyres are well suited for icy conditions as well as the on-board lighting system is important for safety in the darkness of the Arctic winter. The energy transition team at Orkustofnun has many irons in the fire these days and are gathering ideas that help accomplish Althingi’s action plan regarding energy transition. In order to meet such goals, it is clear that applying well-known and successful methods and technologies are important. Orkustofnun, Orkusjóður and Orkusetur will continue to support projects in the field of energy transition throughout the country.
One in every 10 hectares of land is now planted in forestry, according to the latest figures. The Government’s Forestry Statistics paint a picture of the country’s afforested grounds amid increasing pressure to up volume of lands under trees due to greenhouse gas emissions targets. Despite Ireland falling far short of planting targets, the area of forest is estimated to stand at 731,650ha or 10.5% of the total land area of the country. Around 53% or 389,356ha is in public ownership, mainly Coillte.
The forested area acts as a carbon reservoir, amounting to 381 million tonnes of carbon in 2012 and between 2008 and 2012 it removed 16Mt of CO2 and offset 5% of all national emissions. There have been major concerns raised in western counties, particularly Leitrim, over the level of forestry planting in the region. Farmers account for 83% of private lands afforested between 1980 and 2016, with the average size of private grant-aided plantations around 8.8ha since 1980. It states farmer planting has dominated afforestation since 1993. With farmers and non-farmers now eligible for the same rate of grants and premium payments, the number of non-farmers planting has increased to 35% of the areas afforested in 2016. It points out that ‘non-farmers’ include retired farmers, sons and daughters of farmers and other relatives who may have inherited land.
Forestry and its role in carbon sequestration is an obvious part of any solution to the problem of emissions produced by agriculture. In 2016, Cork had the highest afforestation area at 608ha, followed by Clare at 552ha, Roscommon at 435ha, Leitrim at 434ha and Mayo at 429. There were 34 ‘non-farmers’ who accounted for 254ha in Cork in 2016, while 33 accounted for 238ha in Clare, 26 for 212ha in Cavan and 28 for 195ha in Leitrim. Efforts have been made recently to increase the volume of broadleaves planted by the Agriculture Department, with increased grant incentives, as the forest estate is made up of three quarters conifers and one quarter broadleaves. Sitka spruce is the most common species, accounting for 52% of the forest area. The report warns tree diseases impacting species such as larch and Chalara fraxinea or ash dieback may influence diversity into the future.
Taxi drivers and operators of other public service vehicles are set to benefit from a new €7,000 grant scheme aimed at encouraging them to opt for electric vehicles. Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, has announced a new incentive scheme offering a €7,000 grant towards the purchase of an electric vehicle for those with a small public service vehicle (SPSV) licence. That grant is on top of the existing electric car incentives – the €5,000 rebate on vehicle registration tax, a €3,800 grant from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), and the upcoming new grant from the SEAI for installing a home-charging point.
The Department of Transport grant applies to any fully electric vehicle up to six years old, although the amount reduces according to the age of the car. A smaller €3,500 grant applies if you want to buy a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) for taxi use, but only those with Co2 emissions lower than 65g/km. Conventional hybrids are excluded.
The move is the latest in a series of measures being introduced by the Government to promote electric car ownership. Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe introduced a one-year exemption on benefit in kind for electric vehicles in the budget, and it is expected that the exemption will be rolled out for at least three years, including a suspension of any benefit in kind levied on charging your electric car at work.
Meanwhile, Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten has stated that he is looking at other ways to encourage an increase in the move to electric vehicles, including making motorways tolls free for electric cars and banning sales of any non-hybrid or electric car from 2030 onwards. However, the current financial incentives are still not having much effect. Electric cars accounted for a paltry 0.25 per cent of the market last year, with just 622 sold in total in a total new car market of 131,335.