We are the new power generation:
everything we do, every move we make is powered
by the energy we have drawn from the Earth.
Generating electricity from coal is very polluting and inefficient
and gas is on borrowed time
as we are exposed to huge fluctuations in the cost of fuel imports.
As our power demand grows
we need our electricity to become flexible, stable and secure for the future.
Above all it should be low in carbon emissions.
Dependence on inefficient, carbon intensive fossil fuel plants like Moneypoint
leaves us with excessive CO² emissions.
While investments have been made in more efficient combined cycle gas plants,
they are inflexible as a backup to wind power.
The remote locations of our existing power plants
means having to dump huge quantities of valuable heat into our rivers and seas.
These are major challenges.
It's not clear for anyone what the right balance is
and recessionary times makes it even harder
to move some of these things forward.
In a counter way, it's an ideal time to move these things forward
because the challenges facing us are going to enable us
to run more stable systems, more economically friendly systems,
more environmentally friendly systems.
And if we can develop niche technologies
particularly in the area of wind and wave,
where Ireland has certain advantages,
we can position this country to be ready to move forward.
We've now set important targets of 40% of all our power generation
to come from renewable sources by 2020.
As nearly all of this will have to come from wind,
I talked to Michael Walsh of the IWEA.
We've a wonderful resource in Ireland
and at the moment we've 1000 megawatts of wind installed on the system.
To meet the 2020 target we'd need to have 7000 megawatts in total installed
and that means that from now until 2020
we need to take 50% of our current installed capacity
and roll that out every year.
But I am confident we can do that.
Installing an additional 500 megawatts of wind power
every year from now until 2020 is a daunting challenge.
I think we are going to do well in the next 2 or 3 years
but after that it's going to get more difficult.
It's predicted that by 2020
our electricity demand will have increased by about 40%
and most of this will have to come from wind power.
To achieve this, we need a clear road map
with carefully monitored interim targets.
To encourage this clean, sustainable, domestically produced energy
it must be economically attractive to invest in
and this means getting our incentives right.
Traditionally in the past has been fossil fuel,
gas fired power stations, oil fired power stations.
In the future with greater grid connections and with other options
we may be able to balance this better
so that we move our dependence away from fossil fuels,
increase our renewables, increase our technology
and move ourselves onto a much cleaner and sustainable path.
The grid needs urgent upgrading
along with a thousand miles of new transmission lines.
This creates huge challenges.
I talked to Dermot Byrne about the logistics.
We're really at a crossroads.
The government have set out very clearly their policy of 40% by 2020.
So to get there requires all companies working together to make that happen.
We in Eirgrid have a particular role around connecting,
around operating and, critically, about developing the grid itself,
the backbone of the power system, that's able to take the generation
from where it's generated to where it's needed.
But it's not just about large wind farms,
we need to harness wind energy wherever we can,
like Dundalk IT have successfully demonstrated.
Community owned embedded energy with single turbines up to 2 megawatts
could be installed in every university campus and rural towns.
If the right incentives were in place,
there's a huge opportunity for farmers, rural householders
and schools throughout Ireland to harness wind through micro-energy.
This means wind turbine sizes ranging from 2.5 to 50 kilowatt in size.
To make this happen, an economically attractive tariff
of at least 22 cents per kilowatt hour needs to be urgently put in place
along with an easy connection to the distribution grid
as is done all over Europe.
This is long overdue and frustrating for so many people in rural Ireland.
We're lucky to have this plentiful supply
of clean, free energy passing over us
so why wouldn't we take full advantage of it?
What we really need to do, I suppose,
is get everyone involved in what we are trying to do.
Bringing 40% renewable energy into Ireland
is going to have huge benefits for us as a society and an economy.
We're seeing huge interest.
People want to build micro turbines, they want smart metres
and we've a big job ahead of us to engage with communities
and get that message and help people understand that better.
We'll be in a very difficult situation.
We'll be getting about 90% of our energy from imported gas at that stage
and at the moment we are getting that largely from the UK
but that's not going to be available in 2020.
So it'll be Russian gas,
and we've seen over the last few months the risk that brings
and with our geographical location, that'll be very dangerous for us.
Of course we'll have the Corrib field on store by then
but that's really just a short term solution that'll help us out a little bit.
It won't protect us from high energy prices
and it'll be very, very dangerous for our economy.
We're looking at more interconnection with the UK
and ultimately with France and mainland Europe.
It makes it easier to connect offshore wind farms,
it means that we can better meet the needs of our own customers
but it also gives us the potential to have an export industry
and to actually realise the benefits of our resources in Ireland
and our skills in developing them
and sell that green energy on into Europe and England.
What we need are for the state companies and the government
to actually help make the regulations more simple
and to make it more straightforward and quicker to develop wind in Ireland
and I think we need to work with the people in Ireland
that are interested in seeing renewable development
and help them become part of the transformation of our energy economy in Ireland.
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