26th January 2024
Ireland’s Renewable Energy Transition Must Accelerate
Ireland stands at a critical juncture in its efforts to combat climate change and transition to renewable energy sources. While the Government has taken some steps in recent years towards widespread renewable energy deployment, progress has been slow, and there is a pressing need for immediate and rapid change. Greenhouse gas emissions are declining at a pace too sluggish to meet national policy and legal targets. The Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) has issued a stark warning that urgent action is essential to prevent Ireland from missing its carbon budget targets.
Below we delve into the reasons why Ireland must expedite its transition to renewable energy to avert the severe consequences of climate change.
The Geopolitical Impact on Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels has significant implications for its greenhouse gas emissions (not to mention the issue of energy security and uncontrollable cost escalation). The energy industries sector, the third-largest emitter in the country, is facing additional challenges due to geopolitical factors, fossil fuel reliance, and security of supply concerns. As international dynamics shift and fossil fuel prices become more volatile, Ireland’s energy security is put at risk. Moreover, global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are influencing trade and diplomatic relations, making it crucial for Ireland to reduce its carbon footprint and play its part in mitigating climate change.
Urgency for Onshore Renewable Electricity Generation
One of the key areas that requires immediate attention is the increased deployment of onshore renewable electricity generation. Meeting sectoral emissions ceilings for the electricity sector during the first carbon budget period (2021–2025) necessitates swift action. Onshore wind and solar represent mature technologies that Ireland has ample experience in connecting to the grid – we need to remove all barriers that stand between the widespread deployment of onshore renewable projects. By increasing the share of renewable energy in the electricity mix, Ireland can significantly reduce its carbon emissions and move closer to meeting its targets. However, the pace at which the government is implementing its renewable energy policy has been deemed inadequate by the CCAC, given the severity of the climate crisis as witnessed through the extreme weather events that have plagued the world in recent weeks.
Challenges in Offshore Wind Development
While offshore wind holds great potential for Ireland, there are significant challenges in its implementation. Costly third-party appeals and expected judicial reviews have the potential to hinder the progress of offshore wind projects. Delays in planning consent and concerns over capital investment in critical infrastructure such as ports and the electricity grid have also slowed down developments. Addressing these obstacles is critical for this government to harness Ireland’s offshore wind potential and achieve emission reduction goals.
Implications of Missing Climate Targets
The warning from the CCAC is alarming and carries serious implications. Failure to meet carbon budget targets for 2021 to 2025 and beyond will have severe consequences for Ireland’s environment, economy, and societal well-being. By not taking decisive action, Ireland risks contributing to the exacerbation of climate change, leading to more extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and adverse effects on agriculture, biodiversity, and public health.
Ireland is at a pivotal moment in its fight against climate change. To ensure a sustainable future, it must accelerate its transition to renewable energy sources, with an associated reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. While some positive steps have been taken, progress has been insufficient to meet the targets set by national policy. Warnings from the CCAC highlight the urgent need for more ambitious and expeditious actions by the government.
To successfully achieve its goals, Ireland must invest in more onshore renewable electricity generation, streamline processes, address the challenges faced in offshore wind development, increase interconnection and incentivise electricity storage. By taking these measures, Ireland can demonstrate its commitment to its European targets and lead the way towards a greener, more sustainable future. The time for decisive action is now, and the consequences of inaction are far too great to ignore.