The Government should set an ambitious target for Ireland of producing 70 per cent renewable electricity by 2030, which would help transform the energy sector and benefit consumers, according to the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA). The call by the IWEA, which represents the wind industry – including the majority of windfarm operators in Ireland – is based on the findings of a study it commissioned which shows such a target was technically possible and, if achieved, would be cost neutral for consumers.
The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment should set this 70 per cent challenge for the renewable energy industry, said newly-appointed IWEA chief executive Dr David Connolly. Ireland had the required expertise built up over the past two decades “across academia, system operators, regulators, and the entire renewable industry to meet the target”, he told the IWEA spring conference in Dublin. Following a study by Baringa, UK consultants in energy and utilities, IWEA has published its “Energy Vision” for 2030. It highlights the risk of “a return to reliance on fossil fuels towards 2030 after the 40 per cent renewables target [for electricity] set for 2020 is met”.
The study concludes Ireland can continue to be a world leader in renewable electricity, particularly wind, but:
- Wind power, “the least costly technology”, will need to more than double between 2020 and 2030.
- 2,500 megawatts (MW) of solar power capacity will be needed by 2030.
- Construction of storage capacity in the form of 1,700 MW of new batteries by 2030 will be required.
- Power plants need to become more flexible to adjust to fluctuations in wind and solar power, though an additional 1,450 MW will be delivered from interconnectors with Britain and France.
The group’s modelling confirms the possibility of not only providing clean power for the electricity sector, but renewable energy for heat and transport. It says “426,000 electric cars could be used instead of petrol/diesel, while 279,000 heat pumps could replace existing oil boilers in Irish homes by 2030”. Dr Connolly said a bright green future for Ireland was possible “if we have the ambition and the backing to grasp it . . . not only could our 2030 landscape be driven by clean, home grown renewables, but it will not cost more than using fossil fuels”. Up until now the EU target of 40 per cent renewable electricity by 2020 was the key driver for the Irish wind energy sector. The EU is currently evaluating what this target should be for 2030, which is expected to be finalised next year though the Government has yet to commit to a new target.