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Today the IIEA launches a new report on the decarbonisation of Ireland’s power system, examining the pace, democracy, and diversity of decarbonisation. 

The deployment of wind energy has been the biggest success story of Ireland’s decarbonisation thus far, with approximately 26% of electricity generated coming from this source in 2017.

This is only the end of the beginning—a good foundation for the ultimate objective of complete power system decarbonisation. In this policy brief, we assess recent developments with a view to contributing to the debate on the power shift that will occur in the period to 2030.

Under current Government proposals, our key findings are:

  • The pace of power system decarbonisation is likely to be slow over the coming decade because of an over-emphasis on controlling the Public Service Obligation (PSO) Levy. The increase in PSO required for renewables has not resulted in escalating electricity bills up to now, as is often assumed, and a greater pace of renewables deployment could in fact result in lower electricity prices by 2030.
  • There is a robust proposal to promote energy democracy. Opportunities for local communities to collectively develop wind and solar PV projects, and for households to invest in rooftop solar PV, are likely to feature prominently. For citizen energy to work in practice, however, there is a need to promote awareness and up-skilling of communities, and for persistent policy attention over the next decade.
  • Technological diversity is likely to remain low, and the dependence on on-shore wind for power system decarbonisation is likely to persist in the immediate future.

Ahead of the launch, report author Joseph Curtin, IIEA Senior Fellow, said:

The Irish power system has been decarbonising for a decade, and much has been achieved, largely through on-shore wind, which supplied about 26% of power in 2017. But now we are at a crucial turning point following the Government’s launch of a consultation on a future renewable support scheme in mid-2017, and the European Commission’s publication of its Winter Energy Package late last year.

This report examines the pace, democracy, and diversity of decarbonisation. It explores how fast the electricity system will decarbonise over the next decade, to what extent communities and citizens will be able to generate their own electricity, and what technologies are likely to feature prominently.

On the report’s findings, he continued, “We find that the pace of renewables deployment is likely to be very slow, and that renewables could be deployed mush faster without affecting consumers’ bills. We find that communities and citizens are likely to be far more involved in generating their own electricity, but there will be a strong focus on on-shore wind at the expense of other renewables over the coming decade.”

The report, which was supported by NTR Foundation and Friends of the Earth, explores what the next 10 years of power system decarbonisation might look like. It analyses how fast the power system might decarbonise; the extent to which citizens and communities might generate their own electricity; and the role for different technologies as part of the power mix.

An executive summary of the report is available here. The full report is available here