Carbon emissions from the Irish electricity sector could drop from almost 10 million tonnes per year to less than 2 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030 and lead to a price reduction of € 180 million for consumers, according to a report by energy specialists Baringa.
Their analysis released Wednesday also presents a longer-term path to a zero-carbon power system where a combination of fair carbon pricing on fossil fuels, “long-term storage” and green hydrogen generated from energies. renewables will eliminate the need for fossil fuels. in the Irish electricity system during the 2030s.
The report, commissioned by Wind Energy Ireland (WEI), follows a International Energy Agency report last month, which called on countries including Ireland to put in place a net zero electricity system by 2035 – and the recent Dáil approval of the climate action bill that requires a 51% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.
WEI chief executive Noel Cunniffe said the analysis indicates it is possible to cut carbon emissions in the Irish electricity system by almost 80% by 2030 – the government has pledged to have 70% of renewable energies in the production of electricity by the end of the decade.
“The Baringa research clearly shows that we can do this using proven and existing technology, and that this will save the Irish electricity consumer around 180 million euros per year,” he added.
He did, however, underline the need to replace Irish fossil fuel-based back-up generation with zero-carbon technologies such as battery storage devices to conserve electricity so that it can be used in high demand or low availability of wind and solar power; and “synchronous condensers” that improve the ability to integrate a variety of renewable energy sources into the grid.
“This report shows that we can ensure the stability of our electricity system with cheaper and cleaner zero carbon alternatives,” said Cunniffe.
The opportunities for green hydrogen, carbon storage and pricing in the electricity market would enable Ireland to achieve a net zero electricity system, which means that “after more than 140 years, we we are finally in the final phase of fossil fuels in the production of electricity, ”he said. mentionned.
The research identifies three key conditions that must be met if Ireland’s carbon emissions from the electricity sector are to be reduced by 80% by 2030:
– The pursuit of the Government’s current objectives of 8,200 megawatts (MW) of onshore wind and 5,000 MW of offshore wind, while introducing a more ambitious target of 5,000 MW of solar energy, must be maintained;
– EirGrid must replace its current backup system, based on fossil fuels, with one that uses zero carbon technology such as battery storage and demand response;
– The national grid is to be strengthened over the next 10 years with infrastructure, the completion of critical projects such as the north-south interconnection and the investment in EirGrid’s DS3 program which integrates renewables into the system.
In addition, the report recommends that a carbon price floor be introduced into the Irish electricity market “and that it should rise to € 100 per tonne of CO2 by 2030 to reflect the real cost to society of electricity. carbon emitting fossil fuels ”.
Baringa stresses the need to ensure the stability of supply in the system, urging a switch to green hydrogen and long-term storage technology to provide reliable and on-demand electricity when wind and solar are not available. “Existing gas production plants need to be upgraded to run on green hydrogen and any new plant designed to facilitate the conversion,” he adds.
“Our analysis shows that Ireland has a tremendous opportunity to double the decarbonization of the electricity sector,” said Mark Turner, director of energy, utilities and resources at Baringa Partners.
“Achieving less than 2 million tonnes of carbon by 2030 means going further and faster with current plans, but does not require anything drastic or unproven. And we show that it will cost consumers less than the current trajectory. A zero carbon energy sector is within reach for Ireland in the 2030s, ”he added.
Lack of State resources
As research shows Ireland has the renewable energy needed to decarbonize its power system, WEI stressed that concerns about the lack of resources within critical state agencies and government departments are a growing concern.
“We have the renewable energy, the technology and the investments that we need, but there is a real question whether the government is investing enough in its own departments and critical state agencies that will need to scale up and deliver by 2030, ”Cunniffe said. mentionned.
Additional resources and expertise were urgently needed at An Bord Pleanála to ensure a strong and equitable planning system; to the National Parks & Wildlife Service to ensure that projects are developed in a sustainable manner; and in bodies like EirGrid, ESB Networks and the Utilities Regulatory Commission to ensure the power system continues to operate safely, he said.
“We urge Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to ensure that these state agencies and relevant government departments have the staff, resources and expertise they need to work alongside industry and communities across Ireland to achieve the vision set out in the Climate Action Bill, ”Cunniffe said.