Wind industry ready to meet challenge of Ireland’s climate targets

by Rachel Cunningham
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Government Climate Action Plan targets launched recently aims to put Ireland on a more sustainable path by cutting emissions, creating a cleaner economy and society and protecting our nation from the devastating effects of climate change, writes Rachel Cunningham.

The Climate Act 2021 commits Ireland to a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050, and a reduction of 51 per cent by 2030.

By sector, the emissions reductions targets for 2030 include: 62-81 per cent in electricity, 42-50 per cent in transport, 44-56 per cent in buildings, 29-41 percent in industry and enterprise, 22-30 per cent in agriculture and 37-58 per cent in land use, land use change and forestry.

As Ireland attempts to move away from fossil fuels and towards the electrification of transport and heat, one of the most critical measures will be increasing the proportion of renewable electricity to up to 80 per cent by 2030, including an increased target of up to five gigawatts of offshore wind.

This will involve a more rapid build-out of renewable generation capacity, particularly in the areas of offshore wind, solar power and micro-generation, while further measures will include a focus on increased electricity storage, the deployment of zero-emissions gas, such as biogas, biomethane and hydrogen, and the production of hydrogen for use in other industries.

Wind Energy Ireland (WEI), a representative body for the Irish wind industry, has welcomed the publication of the plan, particularly the increased ambition for an 80 per cent renewable electricity target.

Noel Cunniffe, CEO of WEI

Noel Cunniffe, CEO of WEI, told the Dublin Gazette: “Wind energy is ready to lead the way to an 80 per cent renewable electricity system by the end of the decade and on to a zero-carbon electricity system by 2035.

“We have large, and growing, pipelines of onshore and offshore wind energy projects. With the right planning system and a strong electricity grid we will deliver the electricity targets in the Climate Action Plan.

“We are ready, alongside our colleagues in the renewable energy industry, to play our part in delivering the Climate Action Plan.”

WEI warned that, while the wind industry is ready to meet these targets, the Irish government must urgently undertake a number of actions to accelerate the development of offshore renewables to reach the targets outlined in the climate strategy.

“We have less than nine years to reach the 2030 target. We need the government to put in place a robust marine planning system, a much stronger electricity grid and the first offshore renewable electricity auction”, Mr Cunniffe added.

The Irish wind industry representative also addressed what it described as “chronic” staff and resource shortages among relevant government departments and state agencies responsible for enabling the development of offshore wind energy, while acknowledging that small progress had been made in this area.

“The National Marine Planning Framework is complete, the Maritime Area Planning Bill is clearly the Government’s top legislative priority. The model for our offshore electricity grid has been identified.

“The next twelve months will be absolutely decisive for offshore wind and our 2030 renewable energy targets. We need to see our Government, politicians, departments and State agencies step up the pace.

“If Government can put the right conditions for development in place I know the wind industry will play our part and build an Ireland that is energy independent and a leader in the fight against climate change, delivering warmer homes, cleaner air and tens of thousands of new jobs”, Mr Cuniffe concluded.

The Irish government has underscored the opportunity that the Climate Action Plan creates for new jobs and growing businesses in areas like offshore wind, cutting-edge agriculture and retrofitting.

The government intends to support the changes through major public investment, announced recently in the €165bn National Development Plan, including increased funding for retrofitting our homes, building new public transport, reskilling workers and supporting a just transition.

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