Eyes on the energy sector

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The plan will see the electricity sector bear the brunt, with a target of reducing emissions by up to 81%.

Days later Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced Ireland’s climate commitments to world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow, the government released the long-awaited Climate Action Plan 2021 outlining the significant changes in each sector it faces in the € 125 billion scheme.

The plan will see Ireland reduce its overall emissions by 7% each year, eventually achieving a 51% reduction by 2030 and moving the country towards zero emissions by 2050. “We do not believe or accept, as some would have that it’s too late, ”Martin told COP26 on Tuesday.

With nearly 200 actions foreseen in the Climate Action Plan, each sector has received different ranges of targets for reducing emissions, with electricity bearing the brunt of up to 81%. The target for agriculture is up to 30%, businesses up to 41%, construction and housing up to 56% and transport up to 50%.

Data center and pressure on the network

Reducing emissions in the electricity sector is associated with the need to increase the power generated for transport and others to meet their emissions targets. ‘The decarbonisation of electricity is the cornerstone of the plan, as it enables the decarbonisation of other sectors, particularly heat and transport,’ said Professor Andrew Keane, director of the UCD Energy Institute.

“This will in turn lead to increased demand on our electricity system,” he added. “The goal of electricity up to 80% from renewable sources is extremely challenging and will require urgent action with stakeholders coming together.”

Overall, the Climate Action Plan requires the Irish electricity sector to reduce its emissions by up to 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, up from 10.1 million in 2018. However, demand for electricity will simultaneously increase by up to 50% over the next decade, largely driven by “big new energy users, many of whom are data centers.”

This increased demand for electricity from all sides could prompt the government to halt the rapid development of data centers in Ireland and see the Moneypoint coal-fired power plant in Co Clare continue to operate beyond its scheduled closure in 2025.

The Climate Action Plan says Ireland’s data center development policies will be reviewed in the context of this increased pressure on electricity. “The projected growth of data centers clearly poses a challenge to Ireland’s emissions targets,” says the plan.

According to the Irish Times, state grid operator EirGrid has agreed to connect data centers requiring up to 1,800 MW of electricity to “a system where peak demand is approximately 5,000 MW.” It has received requests from data centers for an additional 2,000 MW and is required by current legislation to satisfy this request.

Last month, while the government was arguing stop the construction of data centers to relieve pressure on the network, Irish entrepreneur and Cool Planet CEO Norman Crowley said data centers could be “part of the solution“To the energy crisis in Ireland by switching to generators and accumulators during peak hours.

Overall, the Climate Action Plan represents a “significant step forward in ambitions” for the electricity sector, which will require approximately 5,000 MW of conventional generation capacity in 2030, including 2,000 MW of new capacity built in the coming years.

Wind ready to “lead the way”

Developments in the wind energy sector come with news that energy giant Equinor is retiring a € 2 billion wind energy project with ESB at Moneypoint. The Norwegian state-owned energy company formerly known as Statoil blamed the delays in the planning process for its decision, according to The Irish Times.

Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, the representative body of the Irish wind industry, said this decision underscores the need to reform the Irish regulatory framework.

“We are not reforming Ireland’s planning and regulatory framework quickly enough to develop offshore wind that we will need to achieve the goals of the Climate Action Plan,” he said. “This is leading to a lack of confidence in the industry and in our international supply chain that the government faces.”

However, he said the industry is ready to “lead the way” in helping generate 80% renewable electricity by 2030 and establish a zero-carbon electricity system by 2035.

“We have large and growing pipelines of onshore and offshore wind energy projects. With the right planning system and a solid electricity grid we will achieve the electricity targets in the Climate Action Plan, “he said.

“I can’t afford the uncertainty”

Meanwhile, the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) welcomed the plan for its ambition but warned that it needs to be supported by action and its success will depend on the pace of its delivery, particularly for the goal. up to 81% for the electricity sector.

“Achieving this goal will require a strong contribution from solar,” said Conall Bolger, CEO of ISEA. “While this plan sets a 1.5 to 2.5 GW target for solar energy, it underestimates the potential of the industry. ISEA estimates that Ireland could supply 6GW of solar this decade if the right conditions are provided. “

Stephen Prendiville, Head of Sustainability at EY Ireland, said he was impressed with the way the complete plan was designed as an annually reviewed document, with “a lot to digest” in its more than 200 pages.

“We are looking forward to the annex which contains the implementation, timing and owners of each of the 475 outlined actions,” said Prendiville.

Bolger added that of the 18 actions outlined for the electricity sector in the Climate Action Plan 2019, only three had been substantially completed to date. For this reason, he said it was disappointing to see that the current plan lacks clear deadlines.

“We have already seen how projects can be delayed or set aside indefinitely. The climate emergency cannot afford any uncertainty, so a detailed implementation plan should be the next step for the government. “

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