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.
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.
The GREBE Industry Advisory Group (IAG) contributes towards dissemination of GREBE outputs and learnings among their wider networks, including at local, regional and national policy level where possible. The third annual meeting was organized at LUKE, Metla-talo Joensuu on Thursday 22th of February 2018. Finnish GREBE project partners updated the IAG on the project developments, outcomes over the last year and presented GREBE deliverables (Robert Prinz, LUKE) and its business mentoring in Finland through the Entrepreneurship Enabler Scheme (Lasse Okkonen, Karelia UAS).
The third IAG meeting was the last meeting of the GREBE IAG with representatives from the renewable energy SMEs, research and education, business development companies, regional authority and agricultural producers and forest owners union. The IAG discussed on how to disseminate the final deliverables, cooperate with future activities and how GREBE activities can most effectively be implemented in practice, based on their own experience of working in or supporting the renewable energy.
Following the GREBE IAG meeting, the regional Poveria Biomassasta project hosted a local workshop with over 20 participants at the same premises on energy business including IAG representatives, entrepreneur enabler scheme participants and other stakeholders from the field. The workshop focused on bioenergy business models and experiences of entrepreneurs in the business area with a main topic on heat entrepreneurship and biogas delivery. The event was targeted for farmers and possible heat entrepreneurs as well as other interested stakeholders.
On 28th of January 2018 in Brussels at an EU steering committee meeting on energy technique of the future, SETPLAN, Guðni A. Jóhannesson general director of energy reported on a plan on deployment of geothermal heat for heating and electric production in Europe. Iceland is a member in SETPLAN cooperation on the grounds of EEA cooperation.
A workgroup under supervision of Guðni and other colleagues have been working on various topics e.g. technical matters, highlights and projects that need to be fulfilled under strict rules of the steering committee set in the beginning of the project. Matters that need to be covered are e.g. utilization of geothermal heat, improve the competitiveness and minimize costs regarding exclusive factors of geothermal heat production.
The SETPLAN committee approved the plan from the workgroup and to finance research and development projects within the geothermal fields with 940 billion euro. The financing comes from the partner countries, from EU funds and the industry. The first cooperation project has begun, GEOTHERMICA, and applications thereunder could lead to 60 billion euro projects. Orkustofnun (National Energy Authority) leads the project from Iceland; other partners are also RANNÍS (The Icelandic Centre for Research) which runs the application process. GEORG runs the office of the project and daily operations.
South West College has unveiled plans for its £29 million new build which gets underway in March. Tracey Brothers has been appointed as the main contractor for the construction and development of the new Erne Campus which will be situated on the site of the former Erne Hospital in Enniskillen.
The new campus, which has been designed by Hamilton Architects, will see the delivery of the first educational building worldwide to achieve the highest international standard in environmental construction, PassivHaus Premium. Construction of the 8,200m2 building is scheduled to begin in two months and will provide employment for over 200 people including a number of apprenticeship opportunities.
A spokeswoman for South West College said the building, which is due to be completed in January 2020, will “further enhance the College’s existing global reputation in the sustainable construction sector and will be used to attract international companies and students in this field.”
Eno Energy cooperative is an internationally acknowledged example of heat entrepreneurship based on a cooperative model. Substituting fossil fuel oil with locally produced woodchips in community heating since the year 2000 has resulted in significant socio-economic benefits. Latest research by GREBE partners Karelia UAS and LUKE outlines these through a time-series analysis.
The Eno Energy Cooperative operates and owns three district heating plants producing 15,500 MWh of heat annually and uses approximately 27,000 loose cubic metres of locally produced woodchips. The impacts of the Eno Energy Cooperative were modelled by using an input-output model of North-Karelia, including 33 sectors. The impacts presented are total impacts including construction of heating plants in 2000-2004, production of heat by using locally produced woodchips, and impacts of reduced heating costs (savings) in both public and private sectors. Induced impacts are captured by including household consumption as a sector in the I-O model, and re-investing public sector savings to the social services.
According to the I-O modelling, total employment impacts of the Eno Energy Cooperative in 2000-2015 were approximately 160 FTE’s and total income impact in same period were approximately 6.6 MEUR. During the period of highest oil prices, over 50% of the benefits resulted from heating cost savings of both private households and public sector.
The results indicate that socio-economic impacts may be generated by using different types of strategies, such as utilising business models of social enterprises with re-investment strategies, or cooperatives providing use for the local resources and reducing the energy costs both in private and public sectors.
Currently, Eno Energy Cooperative are participating in the GREBE Entrepreneurship Enabler Scheme (EES) roll-out in North Karelia. They are investigating future business and cooperation opportunities together with business a mentor from Spiralia Ltd., Lahti.
Figure1: Employment impacts (FTE jobs) of Eno Energy Cooperative in 2000-2015, including impacts of construction, heat production and heating cost savings (when re-invested).
Figure2: Income impacts of Eno Energy Cooperative in 2000-2015, including impacts of construction, heat production and heating cost savings (when re-invested).
The Scottish government revealed far-reaching novel strategies to increase the use of renewable fuel in electricity, transport and heat across the country, under its first ever Energy Strategy. Business, Energy and Innovation minister Paul Wheelhouse said in a statement:
“This strategy recognises and builds on our achievements to date and on Scotland’s capacity for innovation. It places consumers, and their interests, more firmly than ever at the heart of everything that we do. We are leading the way in promoting community and locally owned renewable energy – well ahead of the rest of the UK – as figures announced today demonstrate. This strategy will guide decisions of the Scottish government over the coming decades. We want to make sure, within the scope of our devolved powers, good stewardship of Scotland’s energy sector – something we have called the UK government to step up to for years.”
The Strategy sets a new objective for at least 50% of all Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption to be supplied from renewable sources by 2030. Another target set by the Scottish government is a 30% increase in energy productivity across the economy. To drive advancement towards the new targets, the Scottish government promised £80m fresh investment in the energy sector – £60m for low-carbon innovation and £20m for energy investment, coupled with, a confirmation for a publicly owned energy company.
Scotland’s first Energy Strategy was published on the 20th December 2017 and details can be found here – http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0052/00529523.pdf