Ireland needs to do much more in the transition to renewable energies

How many homes will have to implement energy efficiency measures? How much will businesses have to invest? How many wind turbines, biomass boilers and heat pumps must be installed?
Insights and challenges

According to Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) Ireland has set a national target to reduce energy demand by 20% of the 2000–2005 average energy use through energy efficiency measures. A binding EU target for renewable energy use is also established. 16% of final energy use and 10% of energy use in the transport sector must be derived from renewable sources by 2020. The scale of the challenge to meet 2020 targets is illustrated in Figure 1.


Figure 1 Illustrative depiction of level of effort to meet 2020 targets.

Renewable energy source – Electricity (RES-E)

The annual build rate of on-shore wind needs to increase to approximately 125 turbines (generating between 250 MW and 300 MW) per year – less if larger and more powerful turbines are used. Significant private investment will be needed, and such investment will be heavily reliant on investor confidence.

Use of biomass for electricity generation must also increase through the commissioning of waste-to-energy facilities and the growth in the use of biomass CHP. Deployment of 30 MW of ocean energy is also modelled, in order to take account of planned deployment of demonstration projects, together with the continued use of Ireland’s existing hydro resources. At present, Ireland does not have any wave or tidal energy-producing installations.

Renewable energy source – Transport (RES-T)

It is estimated that between 440 and 500 million litres of biofuel will be required in order to meet the 10% RES-T target.

In 2008, the Irish Government set a target of 10% of all vehicles in the transport fleet to be powered by electricity by 2020. This has since been revised to a target of 50,000 EVs in the transport fleet by 2020. Meeting the 2020 target would mean that EVs would account for 20% of all new cars sold in Ireland by 2020.

Renewable energy source – Heat (RES-H)

SEAI has identified a gap in the target achievement scenario for RES-H – the current measures alone will not be sufficient to meet the renewable heat target with current levels of forecast energy demand. The gap to the RES-H target could be closed by the installation of renewable technologies in 300,000 homes or 3,000 service sector buildings or 200 large industrial sites.

Impact of target achievement on energy demand and fuel use

The projections show that even with target achievement, Ireland will be still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, in 2020. Oil will remain the dominant fuel, driven by demand in the transport sector as well as residential, commercial and industrial heating applications. Much of the demand for oil heating will be in rural areas that do not have access to the gas grid. Gas combustion to generate electricity and heat will be responsible for 24% of primary energy demand by 2020. Coal combustion to generate electricity will make up a sizable proportion of fuel use. The use of peat will decline, as policy support for burning peat ends in early 2020. Over the period to 2020, the projections show that Ireland remains a net importer of electricity.

Non-ETS emissions target

SEAI’s modelling indicate that from 2016/2017 onwards, in the absence of additional emissions reductions, annual reduction targets will not be met.


The target achievement scenario (With Additional Measures) requires an acceleration of deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies over the period to 2020.

Deep decarbonisation of the energy sector needs to start now if 2050 benchmarks are to be achieved.


The increased level of effort required by Ireland to achieve its energy efficiency and renewable energy targets has been highlighted. As follows:

■ Approximately 75,000 homes and businesses must be upgraded for improved energy efficiency every year – depending on the depth of retrofit opted for.

■ Between 200 MW and 250 MW of additional wind capacity must be installed every year.

■ Supply of between 440 million and 500 million litres of biofuels must be secured for blending with fossil fuels for transport – increasing biofuel penetration in existing fuel supplies to 8%.

■ Roll-out of electric vehicles must be greatly accelerated – to the point where the 20% of new cars sold in Ireland must be electric within 5 years.

■ 300,000 homes or 3,000 services/ public sector buildings or 200 large industrial sites must be encouraged to install renewable heat options such as biomass boilers, solar thermal, and biomass


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