Ireland plans to move to 70% renewable electricity by 2030 with bids for capacity

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PLAN to move Ireland to 70% renewable electricity by 2030 has been published by the Irish government.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, T.D. announced details of the first Renewable Electricity Support Scheme auction, which has received Government approval, on 2 December.

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is an auction-based scheme which invites renewable electricity projects to bid for capacity and receive a guaranteed price for the electricity they generate.

Minister Bruton commented on the announcement: “Ireland is currently 86% reliant on fossil fuel. We must radically reduce this dependence and make the transition to cleaner, more renewable energy.

“We are exiting from peat and coal to generate electricity and moving to clean, renewable sources of power, like wind and solar.

“The Renewable Energy Support Scheme is a flagship Government policy designed to deliver on our commitments to decarbonise our electricity grid, harness our natural resources and bring renewable energy into the heart of our communities.”

The first auction under the Scheme could see installed wind capacity grow further by 30%, from the 50% it has grown by since 2015, in the next three years with solar and community participation.

“This is the equivalent of powering up to 640,000 homes every day and will have a significant impact on delivering what we set out in the Climate Action Plan.”

Every project developer will be obligated to contribute to a Community Benefit Fund at a rate of €2 per MWhr every year.

This will generate a minimum amount of up to €6m for communities living in close proximity to renewable projects each year.

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme will also mandate that Irish citizens or communities will have access to investment opportunities in renewable energy projects, prioritising those citizens that live in close proximity to the projects.

The Minister expects to announce further details on this aspect in the New Year.

The Irish Wind Energy Association, Ireland’s largest renewable energy organisation, welcomed the announcement.

Dr David Connolly, CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association, said: “The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is critical to the development of renewable energy and to ensuring Ireland can achieve our 2030 target to source 70 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources.

“Wind energy is leading Ireland’s efforts against climate change and this scheme will enable another generation of wind farms to be built, providing clean electricity to power our homes, farms and businesses while reducing our CO2 emissions.”

The Government has agreed the proposed elements of the Scheme, which subject to state aid approval, will make up the first auction set to open next year.

  • Increasing Technology Diversity The Scheme will be open to a range of technologies that will broaden the renewable energy mix and enhance security of supply.
  • Solar The Government has approved the inclusion of a solar category, subject to state aid approval, which would represent approximately 10% of the overall auction
  • Community-led category The Government has approved the inclusion of a community category within the auction, subject to state aid approval of up to 30 GWh
  • Community Participation: An obligatory community benefit fund scheme will provide opportunities for communities to play their part in Ireland’s renewable energy transition

The first auction is set to open early next year, subject to State Aid approval and will deliver up to a 3,000GWh increase in renewable electricity generation by the end of 2022.

The Irish Wind Energy Association emphasised the need to keep up the momentum and move ahead with auctions under the new scheme as quickly as possible.

Dr Connolly continued: “Ireland is already far behind on cutting our CO2 emissions and we are looking at a gap of 18 months between the completion of the last wind farms under the old REFIT support scheme and the connection of new projects under the RESS.

“Anything the Government can do to get RESS up and running more quickly will save time, money and CO2 emissions.

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is still subject to EU state aid approval.