Ireland outlines 4.5-GW clean energy plan

The Irish government has announced plans to build an additional 4.5 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, more than doubling the amount of clean energy currently in the system.

A new Renewable Electricity Support System (RESS) will be introduced to support the initiative, as part of the national development plan for the next decade, Project Ireland 2040. The exact structure of the RESS is not set to be confirmed until April, but certain features appear to be agreed. It will, for example, be based on a technology-neutral auction system, but other technology-specific auctions may be held to give some direction on the role of individual technologies.

The government will also fund research to accelerate the switch to “wind, wave, solar, biomass, biofuels, biogas and hydrogen”, more interconnectors and new electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure to ensure at least half a million EVs are on the road by 2030 – ten years ahead of similar measures in the UK.

Dublin will also ban the sale of non-zero emission vehicles after 2030, with all new buses to be electric from 2019.

Ireland will also stop burning coal to produce electricity at the Moneypoint thermal power plant (TPPs) – the site is the country’s largest individual carbon emitter. The nation’s peat-fired TPP fleet will also be converted to run on more sustainable fuels by 2030.

Current renewables capacity is dominated by onshore wind, but the country has a potential pipeline of solar projects of around 6 GW, according to Solar Power Portal.

The Irish Times described the plan as “a radical overhaul of how the State tackles climate change, allocating 22 billion euros [US$27 billion] – one fifth of the entire budget – to a series of measures that will turn Ireland into a low-carbon economy by 2050”.

These include a 4 billion euro (US$5 billion) plan to retrofit up to 45,000 homes and schools every year from 2021 to improve their energy efficiency. The scheme would apply to buildings built before 2008.

To help pay for the investment, the government will also establish a new climate action fund financed from an existing petroleum products levy.

There will also be a number of “climate-smart countryside” projects to help homes and farms export power from small-scale distributed renewable energy schemes.

The plan will build on Ireland’s commitment under EU rules to produce from renewable sources at least 16% of all energy consumed by 2020.