John Dallas, Solicitor
Wind Energy and Ireland’s National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP)
EU Directive 2009/28/EC (commonly referred to as the Renewable Energy Directive) established the basis for Member States achieving a target of 20% of energy consumption being from renewable sources. One of the obligations contained in the Renewable Energy Directive was that each Member State was to adopt and submit to the European Commission an action plan setting out each Member State’s national renewable energy targets and how those targets would be achieved. Ireland’s NREAP was submitted to the Commission in July 2010.
Ireland’s individual target as set by the Renewable Energy Directive is 16% of its electricity generation to be from renewable sources by 2020. Ireland’s NREAP presents two scenarios demonstrating the contribution of renewable energy sources to the overall electricity mix. The first Modelled Scenario envisages Ireland meeting (but not exceeding) its 16% target in 2020. The second “Export Scenario” (which is not modelled) envisages Ireland exceeding its target and therefore generating surplus electricity that can be made available for “cooperation mechanisms”. This term is not defined in the NREAP however broadly it refers to the export of excess renewable electricity to other Members States.
Wind energy remains the primary source of renewable electricity from which to meet Ireland’s 16% target by 2020. In both the above scenarios, wind energy is predicted to be by far the largest contributor to the renewable energy mix throughout the period. Notably, in the Export Scenario, offshore wind has an increased role in achieving a surplus for export. For example, in 2020, the Export Scenario envisages 2,408MW from offshore wind as compared to 555MW in the Modelled Scenario. Indeed the NREAP specifically cites Ireland’s offshore wind resource as being a significant source of our renewable electricity export potential.
While it is not clear how the export of renewable electricity will work in practice, there is clearly a significant opportunity for Ireland to be a net electricity exporter. There are, however, a number of challenges involved in achieving the Export Scenario set out in Ireland’s NREAP.
One of the largest challenges outlined in the NREAP is that the Export Scenario is currently limited technically by grid infrastructure. Clearly massive planning and investment in grid infrastructure including inter-connectors between Ireland and the UK (and possibly mainland Europe) is required to achieve the Export Scenario envisaged by NREAP. The plan outlines a number of current initiatives to address the matter of grid infrastructure including the construction of the East West & Second North South inter-connectors, and Ireland’s involvement in the North Seas Offshore Grid initiative and the ISLES project.
Other notable challenges that must be overcome in realising the Export Scenario set out in the NREAP will be grid management (in light of the increased presence of intermittent energy sources), financial investment in both grid infrastructure and in project financing, streamlining the planning and consent process (particularly in relation to offshore projects) and of course ensuring that the end price of electricity to Irish consumers is not significantly affected in our efforts to meet our 2020 targets.
The NREAP sets out a clear and ambitious plan for Ireland’s renewable energy sector. The opportunity to be an exporter of renewable electricity is clearly envisaged as are the challenges in realising this opportunity. What is also clear is the crucial role of wind energy on the road to 2020.
phone: +353 1 828 0600