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Home » Infrastructure » Ireland can lead the way towards a future of renewable energy

Kevin O’Donovan

Managing Director, Statkraft Ireland

We are in the middle of a complete transformation of our electricity system, moving from a reliance on fossil fuels to a country run on clean energy.

When I started working in renewables, I could not have imagined the journey ahead. Ireland is now at a point where almost half of our electricity comes from renewable sources. It is set to increase to 80% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. Statkraft is playing an important part in this transition, developing renewable technologies like onshore and offshore wind, solar, battery storage and grid services.

This is a seismic moment in our country’s clean energy transition. Our infrastructure needs to keep pace with that.

Achieving our targets

Ireland can achieve its clean energy targets. Countries across Europe are going in the same direction, moving rapidly towards a decarbonised future. We are in the middle of that transition, but we have the bonus of a competitive advantage – our abundant natural resources. As an organisation, we are currently building two wind and two solar projects in Ireland totalling over 330MW – the largest contribution of projects in construction of any developer to those targets.

The renewable energy targets that the Government has set are possible from both a technical and economical point of view. These are the vital starting points. However, the key component to a clean energy future is upgrading our electricity grid system to enable us to deliver it. This will require work in terms of infrastructural upgrades and public acceptance will be crucial.

Grid infrastructure

When looking to the future of renewable energy, high-quality, effective grid infrastructure is what is needed to deliver it. Reinforcement of grid infrastructure is central to facilitating the connection of renewable energy projects to enable us to meet Ireland’s targets, including the interim renewable and carbon emission targets.

Developing the grid means planning and developing new lines and substations so permission will be needed. Public support is essential and local developments must be considered in the overall context of a completely decarbonised electricity system. The development of this infrastructure must be done in a strategic way, in partnership with renewable energy developers, as there is real potential for developers to assist in the delivery of the network solutions required.

Renewable electricity will contribute most of our electricity needs by 2030 and we must begin now.

Grid system services

To make the most efficient use of the renewable energy projects we build, and to make sure the power system works reliably at high levels of renewable penetration, we need smart grid system services.

Up until recently, fossil fuels provided all the grid system services required to keep our electricity system stable. As we transition to a system that is reliant on renewable energy, it is necessary to introduce new zero carbon technologies, such as battery storage and synchronous compensators, to step in and provide these services that were traditionally provided by power plants. Statkraft is now operating the two first battery projects in Ireland.

As we move towards 2050, we will need more and more of these technologies to stabilise the system and to smooth out supply-demand spikes on our electricity system. By doing this, we are protecting ourselves from huge price variations that largely come from gas. By introducing these alternatives into our grid system, we are making sure that we accommodate renewable energy in an efficient and stable way.

The ultimate prize

Improving the renewable energy infrastructure in Ireland is a complex and challenging task. Renewable electricity will contribute most of our electricity needs by 2030 and we must begin now to ready ourselves to accommodate that transition. Two of the keys areas to focus on in the short term are the capacity of the grid infrastructure and the delivery of zero-carbon grid system services.

We have the investment and we have the technology. Now it is about delivery and the prize is big – complete energy independence and a future of clean, renewable energy.

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