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New plan outlines how Ireland will ramp up its renewable electricity by 2030

As part of the Climate Action Plan, Ireland needs to reduce emissions from electricity by between 62% and 81% this decade.

IRELAND HAS A new plan for how it will reach 70% renewable electricity generation by the end of this decade. 

The government’s revised Climate Action Plan released last week set out that the emissions generated from electricity must fall by between 62% and 81% by 2030 compared to 2018 levels. This is the biggest goal of any sector.

The national grid operator EirGrid has released the details of a roadmap for how it says this can be achieved.

It sets out a number of projects largely focused on upgrading the current electricity grid used in Ireland to move away from the use of fossil fuels. 

More than 40% of electricity currently comes from renewables in Ireland. 

The new grid plan “seeks to minimise the impact on communities while still delivering on the renewable ambition”, EirGrid said. 

The roadmap – entitled Shaping Our Electricity Future – will require more than €1 billion of investment on top of an existing €2.2 billion in other grid infrastructure projects. 

In a statement, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said: “We must radically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and make the transition to cleaner, indigenous renewable energy.”

Ryan said the increase in renewables will “insulate Ireland from the volatility” of fossil fuel prices and “enable us to meet the projected increased demand for electricity over the coming years”.  

Mark Foley, the CEO of EirGrid, said this plan will “secure the transition to a clean energy future”. 

“The grid requires unprecedented change in the next ten years. This transition to clean electricity will affect everyone in Ireland and will unquestionably be difficult, however the benefits will be truly transformative at both a societal and an economic level,” Foley said in a statement. 

In terms of reaching the upper 80% target set out in the Climate Action Plan, Minister Ryan told reporters at the COP26 summit in Glasgow that “the approach taken for here will also deliver the 80%”.

Foley added: “We’ve done the work for 70%. 70% tackles the physics and the engineering problem.

“We’ll be well capable of doing the work and figuring out the cheapest pathway from 70-80%.”

“It’s not as if we have to re-invent the wheel here,” Ryan told reporters at the briefing. “We have to accelerate what we have already been doing and to particularly develop the offshore.”  

A briefing document on the plan said renewable energy will be “dominated by offshore wind in the Irish sea”. 

Developing the plan

EirGrid looked at four different approaches to developing this plan – one of which involved developers deciding where to locate clean electricity generation.

This is the main approach being used in Northern Ireland under this plan. In the Republic, however, it will be mostly developed through a ‘generation-led approach’ where renewable electricity is generated close to where the most power is used. 

Expansion of the existing grid will be conducted through a number of methods including line upgrades, new technologies used on the wires and more overhead lines.

Use of coal and fossil fuel-based generation will be phased out within the next decade with gas used to “fill any gaps”. 

A document on the new plan said that the use of gas will “ultimately be displaced by hydrogen or some other form of non-carbon generating fuel”. 

More than half of the projects included in the plan are focused on upgrades to existing circuits on the grid.  

According to Wind Energy Ireland (WEI) – the industry representative group – there are just under 400 wind farms across the country.

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