Renewables will help improve the country's security of supply and play a pivotal role in achieving the government's climate change targets, states the government's new energy green paper, "Towards a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland." Unless policy is changed, gas will account for 70% of generation by 2020. The government is also setting a 20% target for increases in energy efficiency. Despite concerns about Ireland's heavy reliance on imports, the green paper supports the 1999 statutory ban on nuclear power generation in Ireland.
The increased renewables targets assume "no insuperable technical difficulties." The green paper warns of challenges in accommodating increased levels of renewable generation into the island's network. But it notes that additional back-up to the grid will be provided by two interconnectors, one to Northern Ireland, the other to Britain. The capacity of the existing north-south interconnector is to be doubled to over 600 MW, while a new 500 MW east-west sub sea interconnector is to be complete by 2012. Meanwhile, an ongoing "all island grid study" is due to report in 2007 on increasing capacity throughout both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
According to Ireland's governmental head, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the actions outlined in the energy green paper will make Ireland "an acknowledged world leader particularly in the areas of renewables, biofuels and energy efficiency." His natural resources minister agrees. "This is an ambitious goal but one that I believe we can reach," says Noel Dempsey.
On the thorny issue of the market dominance of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB), the incumbent state-owned electricity supplier, the government states it does not intend to "privatise or atomise" the ESB or even, as recommended by consultants Deloitte, to sell off a small number of generation assets. Instead, to encourage competition, the green paper proposes creating a state-owned "land bank" of ESB sites suitable for generation development to sell to new entrants.
The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) is "particularly happy" to see the 30% renewables target. As wind is currently the only significant indigenous source of energy, it will be a significant player in supplying Ireland's energy needs into the future, states the association. The green paper, published in October, sparks a two month consultation period in which stakeholders can submit their views to government.