Government ups renewables target

Ireland's government has set a new target for renewable energy of 40% of electricity supply by 2020 -- up from its previous 2020 aim of 33%. Energy minister Eamon Ryan pushed for the new goal after an All-Island Grid Study found that up to 42% renewables penetration throughout the island of Ireland would be feasible without jeopardising security of supply, subject to upgrading the electricity grid. The increased target was announced by environment minister John Gormley as he unveiled his annual carbon budget. Ryan and Gormley are the only two Green Party ministers in the cabinet. Gormley points out that the higher level of renewables would cut carbon emissions from electricity by 25%. "The government will be conducting further analysis to ensure that the higher renewable electricity target supports competitiveness, is delivered on time and at least-cost to consumers and businesses, while maximising sustainable socio-economic benefits," he says. The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) says the 40% goal now needs to be supported with investment in the network. "This target increase requires a radical re-examination of how we manage energy systems to accommodate and exploit ever increasing amounts of renewable power," says IWEA's Michael Walsh. The permitting system is another area that needs to be reviewed to deliver the target. Under current rules, planning consent for a wind farm expires after five years, he points out. Yet grid connection applications take up to six years to process, with another few years more to deliver the connections. IWEA is calling for the automatic extension of wind farm planning permits where completion of the project has been prevented by delays in grid connections.