Renewable energy will change Ireland’s energy supplies dramatically away from fossil fuels to wind, solar and bioenergy by 2030.
The scale of transformation is such that “the next 10 years are going to see change that we probably cannot imagine,” says ESB chief executive Pat O’Doherty.
“We need to completely rethink how we use energy and where we get it from, but it is not clear yet what this means in practice. We don’t have the luxury of time to wait around for breakthrough innovation to happen,” he says.
The domination of the market by traditional giant utilities is being disrupted and a “distributed and digital” model will take root, where smart communities and tech-savvy consumers become energy players, not just customers.
Climate change commitments and ever more demanding EU targets means that power generation, transport and heat will increasingly have to be produced from sustainably-produced electricity.
Cheaper costs will lead to more sustainable energy use, while bioenergy, especially biomethane, could flow through the existing natural gas network – not just fossil natural gas.
Decentralisation will mean locally-based energy networks will become “the new normal”, enabling easy delivery of locally-produced energy to the grid and flexible energy consumption.
No one predicted the huge drop in wind and solar energy costs over the past decade, says O’Doherty. However, he dismisses notions there will be a seamless transition to a Utopian 100 per cent renewable future.
Preliminary numbers from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) show that more than 30 per cent of Ireland’s electricity consumption last year came from renewables – more than double the 2010 figure.
Recently, EirGrid announced that two-thirds of the electricity carried at any point on the electricity grid throughout the island of Ireland can come from renewable sources – a world’s first.