SEAI: Intensive action needed to increase renewables share in Irish electricity mix

Ireland’s Marine Renewable Energy Atlas (Photo: atlas.marine.ie)

Renewable energy share in Irish electricity mix increased significantly in 2015, contributing a quarter of all electricity used and avoiding 3 million tonnes of fossil-fuel related CO2 emissions, according to the Renewable Electricity in Ireland 2015 report published by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Dr Eimear Cotter, SEAI Head of Low Carbon Technologies said: “Ireland is making significant progress in decarbonising our electricity system.

“In addition, the economy benefits from the use of local and indigenous renewable energy which brings with it local jobs and enterprise opportunities.”

Over 80% of renewable electricity generated in Ireland came from wind power accounting for three quarters of the avoided CO2 emissions. The remaining renewable electricity came from a range of technologies, including hydropower, biomass, waste and landfill gas.

Concluding Dr Cotter said: “We know that renewables in electricity generation helps to lower CO2 emissions, but we still have an electricity system that is heavily reliant on carbon emitting fossil fuels. With 2020 renewable electricity targets approaching, we need to intensify action to increase the contribution of all renewables in our electricity mix.

Ocean energy plans

A strategic environmental assessment, published as part of Ireland’s Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) in 2014, indicates that there is potential for between 1,500 MW and 3,000 MW of tidal energy development to occur without significant effects on the environment.

However, these levels of deployment were not assessed from a technical or commercial feasibility perspective, the report says.

Irish company OpenHydro was the first company to install a tidal energy device in the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) off the Scottish coast in 2006. They have since progressed to installing two grid-connected 2 MW turbines as part of the Paimpol-Bréhat array in France in early 2016. Part of OpenHyrdo’s future project portfolio includes a 100 MW development off Torr Head on the north coast of Antrim.

Another Irish company DP Energy are also proposing to develop a 100 MW project near Fair Head, Co. Antrim.

When it comes to wave energy, the OREDP indicates that there is potential for up to 17,500 MW of wave energy development in Ireland to occur without significant effects on the environment. However, these levels were not assessed from a technical or commercial feasibility perspective.

The Government has an ambition for Ireland to be a world leader in the development of wave energy. A key attribute in the ongoing effort to realise these goals, is the presence, continued improvement and expansion of several outstanding test and demonstration facilities covering each stage of offshore renewable energy technology development. These facilities include: the LIR National Ocean Test Facility (NOTF) in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork; the 1/4-scale Marine and Renewable Energy Test Site located within the confines of Galway Bay, and; the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) off the coast of Belmullet, Co. Mayo.

According to the 2015 Energy White Paper, given the current state of readiness of these technologies, it is not anticipated that wave and tidal will make a large contribution in the short term, SEAI says in the report. Significant steps are being taken at the early stage of R&D however, and SEAI has supported over 80 early stage ocean energy projects through its Prototype Development Fund since 2009, the organization said.

Source: SEAI

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