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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Jul 12, 2012 - 6:35 AM

International Energy Agency says Ireland needs to develop large infrastructure projects to meet targets for renewable energy
By Finfacts Team
Jul 11, 2012 - 5:04 PM

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Pat Rabbitte, minister for energy and IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven, Dublin, July 11, 2012.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency, the energy watchdog for 28 industrialised countries including Ireland, said today that Ireland needs to develop a range of large infrastructure projects in order to meet its ambitious targets for renewable energy. The agency said in a review of Irish energy policies, that to meet ambitious energy targets to move itself towards a low-carbon economy, Ireland needs to break its heavy use of imported fossil fuels and invest even more in renewable technologies, expand grid integration and improve energy efficiency.

"At a time when many governments are shying away from their commitments to clean energy, Ireland has courageously resisted the temptation to scale back its own," IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said today in Dublin as she released the new study, 'Energy Policies of IEA Countries - Ireland 2012' (not available online). "A lot has been achieved, yet there is more to do. Now is not the time for complacency."

Ireland, whose location gives it some of the best wind and ocean energy resources in Europe, plans to produce 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, one of the highest targets in the world. The second pillar of Ireland's decarbonisation strategy relies on the development and optimisation of energy efficiency and research and development into "demand-side management" technologies. The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan outlines 90 measures and actions to be implemented in order to achieve 20% energy savings as of 2020.

The IEA says funding of energy-focused research and development is strong, despite Ireland's recent economic downturn, and the country has become a world leader for smart grid deployment, a key means to reaching ambitious targets in the deployment of clean generation and end-use technologies, such as variable renewable energies and electric vehicles.

The IEA said Ireland is highly dependent on imported oil and gas. While the push to develop renewable energies is commendable, the report warns, it will result in an increased reliance on natural gas, as gas-fired power plants will be required to provide flexibility in electricity supply when wind power is unavailable. Two-thirds of Ireland's electricity already comes from gas-fired generation, which adds to energy security concerns, particularly as 93% of its gas supplies come from a single transit point in Scotland. The country must successfully develop a range of gas and electricity infrastructure projects and market solutions while continuing to integrate its energy markets with regional neighbours.

Regional integration is an ongoing development, in line with the European Union's target model.  Ireland has successfully implemented the all-island Single Electricity Market (SEM) with Northern Ireland, fostering genuine competition among suppliers. Increased interconnection with the island of Great Britain is underway.  In the gas market, the governments of Ireland and Northern Ireland are developing a Common Arrangements for Gas (CAG) framework.

IBEC’s head of Environment and Energy Policy Dr Neil Walker said: "IBEC supports the transition towards a low-carbon economy, but we need an integrated energy and climate change policy. Delays to critical electricity network projects are costing consumers €30 million a year in constraint costs. The Government must provide leadership by developing national planning guidelines for projects of this type to ensure public support and to avoid unnecessary delays and associated costs.

"IBEC agrees with the IEA that the way in which carbon tax revenue is used in meeting economic and environmental objectives should be transparent and open to scrutiny. Some revenue from taxing carbon should be ring-fenced and recycled back to business through energy initiatives that address emission reduction objectives, while at the same time boosting competitiveness."

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