EirGrid to invest €2bn in renewable energy transformation

Energy firm EirGrid is to invest €2bn in a network transformation that will ensure that renewable energy will account for 70pc of all electricity used in Ireland by 2030 – more than double current levels.

Key to the new strategy is upgrading the power system so that it can handle world-leading levels of renewable energy, supplied through a combination of offshore and onshore wind, along with solar energy.

“The strategy EirGrid is setting out today is a direct response to the significant but necessary challenges we have been set in the Government’s Climate Action Plan,” said EirGrid CEO Mark Foley.

“We can only break the grip of fossil fuels by building major new renewable capacity”

“The need to respond to the climate change crisis is a priority and the knock-on benefits will be considerable. It is shaped by the rapid evolution of the electricity sector and its aims are reflected in our new statement of purpose; transforming the power system for future generations.”

Achieving this will require the connection of up to 10,000 megawatts (MW) of additional renewable generation by 2030. The first wind farm was connected in 1992 and there is now 5,000 MW of renewable generation connected to the power system.

Foley added: “EirGrid Group is responsible for managing the flow of electricity around the island. The coming years will see the most radical transformation of the system since the advent of electricity and will provide people with the clean energy they need. EirGrid will develop the infrastructure and operational requirements to facilitate this shift.”

A strategy for tomorrow

Foley said that EirGrid can operate the grid at any given time with up to 65pc of renewable power, including onshore wind and solar. This, he said, will be a pioneering engineering achievement. By 2030, this must increase to 95pc.

“The need to respond to the climate change crisis is a priority and the knock-on benefits will be considerable”

This will require EirGrid’s engineers to operate the system in a more dynamic and responsive way. To do so will require improvements to infrastructure to make the grid stronger and more flexible.

Foley said will be achieved by using innovative solutions as well as proven technologies.

“Our goal will be to achieve the required increase in renewable energy while minimising new infrastructure,” Foley concluded.

“And as always, we will pursue these changes without impacting on the reliability of the electricity system. System interconnection – such as the proposed new North South, Celtic and Greenlink interconnectors – is a key part of this goal.”

The news was welcomed by the Minister for Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton, TD.

“Our electricity grid will be pivotal to the success of urgent Climate Action in Ireland,” Minister Bruton said.

“We can only break the grip of fossil fuels by building major new renewable capacity. EirGrid must ensure that our power is safe, secure and reliable as we convert more and more users in transport, in homes, and in enterprise to clean energy. But EirGrid must also accommodate much more distributed sources of generation, large and small, and help to promote smart and secure use of power. I welcome this strategy, which recognises the significance of the challenge ahead and sets out how we can lead the transformation required. We must act now and leave a better, healthier, more sustainable Ireland for future generations.”

Irish wind farm image: Joe Gough/Shutterstock 

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Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 27 September, 2019