Ireland is “not on course” for meeting its 2020 emissions reduction and renewable energy targets, which also calls into question whether the country can achieve its 2030 EU targets, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The Paris-based agency points out while Dublin has successfully advanced the transformation of its energy sector - led primarily by the power sector – that the country’s overall energy system remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
Recent figures from the EU’s statistical office Eurostat show that Ireland plus six other countries - the Netherlands, France, the UK, Luxembourg, Poland, and Belgium – are not on track to meet their 2020 targets. Germany is also seen as unlikely to meet its 2020 target.
Eurostat said that only 11 of the 28 EU member states have reached their national 2020 targets. Two more – Latvia and Austria – are very close to meeting their 2020 objectives.
The IEA review said the Irish electricity system can already accommodate up to 65% of variable wind and solar generation, without risking security of supply – one of the highest shares globally and testimony to the country’s innovation and research capacity.
With energy consumption projected to rise with population growth, Ireland will need to meet its future energy needs through low-carbon and energy efficient solutions in order to keep carbon emissions in check.
The IEA told Recharge that Ireland is expected to reach between 12.7% and 13.9% of renewables in final energy consumption by 2020, with the electricity sector accounting for by far the largest share.
“Legal targets are only for the share of renewables in final energy consumption of 16%. Ireland has set a national target for renewables in the power sector at 40% for 2020, contributing to the 16% overall target.
“The latest official data available for 2017 shows the share of renewables in the electricity sector at 30%, and based on developments in the power sector we believe there is a chance that Ireland can meet its 40% target in 2020,” said the IEA.
In 2017 about 25% of Ireland’s total power generation came from wind power – the third highest share among all 30 IEA member countries.
“Ireland has become a world leader in system integration of renewables thanks in large part to strong policies and commitment to innovation,” said Paul Simons, IEA deputy executive director.
“Building on this success, we advise the government to urgently implement additional measures and monitor their progress to get the country back on track to meet its long-term climate targets.”
The Irish government last year approved long-awaited plans for a new competition-based Renewable Electricity Support Scheme which met a qualified welcome from the nation’s clean energy sector.
The government hopes the first auction, to be held this year will spur the rapid development of ‘shovel ready’ onshore renewables projects to help the country meet its 40% EU renewable power target by 2020, with offshore wind set to play a role in Ireland’s ambitions out to 2030.
Industry body WindEurope has warned that many of the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) drawn up by EU member states are “badly lacking in policy detail” and will leave the bloc short of its EU-wide target of 32% of final energy consumption from renewables by 2030.
The draft NECPs submitted to Brussels have been rated “insufficient” or “poor” for every EU nation in a WindEurope analysis. These draft plans have to be turned into finalised versions by the end of this year.
Leading EU climate change NGO Climate Action Network said this week that Ireland’s NECP submitted to Brussels for approval by member states is “way off track” in meeting targets.
“The plan does not demonstrate high ambition on energy savings and renewable energy, indicating a lack of focus in their actions for the next decade,” concluded a CAN report.
It said Ireland is among states, including Belgium, Poland and Luxembourg with low ambition on emissions reductions in sectors such as transport, buildings, waste and agriculture, both for 2020 and 2030.
Sweden, Portugal, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland and France are in the lead, aiming to reach net-zero emissions by 2045 or 2050 at the latest.
Richard Bruton, Ireland’s climate action and environment minister said, “The IEA’s review confirms that while recovery has seen some improvement in take up of renewables and in energy efficiency, Ireland has not broken the link between economic growth and prosperity and greenhouse gases.
“It highlights the major changes Ireland needs to make in how we heat our buildings, on how we move around, and how we power our grid.”
In its key recommendations the IEA said Ireland should prioritise improving the transparency of, and accountability for, meeting its emissions reduction targets.
The agency said this should include publishing its draft NECP, setting trajectories towards meeting renewable and energy efficiency targets, including the means of achieving them, and clarifying the contribution of those targets to help meeting the EU’s targets.