Derrygreenagh, Co Offaly
27 April 2017
As Minister with responsibility for energy and climate action, I am fully aware of the major challenge facing Ireland to live up to the ambition of the Paris Agreement on climate change. I have just concluded the public consultation on the draft National Mitigation Plan which will begin the process of transitioning Ireland to a low-carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050.
This is against the backdrop of the most recent projections by the Environmental Protection Agency, who paint a stark picture of the challenge we face to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. However, one area we have a lot to be proud about when it comes to bringing about the changes we need to implement, is in respect of sustainable energy. That is why I am really happy to attend this launch here this afternoon.
Today’s announcement builds on the rich legacy of partnership between Bord na Móna and the ESB, as our society rises to a new challenge - the challenge of decarbonisation.
The long term development of Ireland’s abundant, diverse and indigenous renewable energy resources is a key element of this Government’s energy policy and will contribute to security of energy supply as well as helping meet our international renewable energy and climate obligations.
Government policy sets a vision of a low carbon energy future by 2050 which will include greater levels of energy efficiency and renewable energy with an associated reduction in our dependence on fossil fuels.
We need to focus on areas where the impact on emissions is greatest, and adopt technologies that are as cost effective as possible and that fit with our carbon reduction targets.
We have made great progress in the decarbonisation of our electricity sector with over 25% of our electricity coming from renewable sources. We need to continue this progress in the electricity sector but also increase our efforts in the transport and heating sectors.
A key method by which we can decarbonise these sectors is through electrification. This can be achieved by switching our cars to electric vehicles and transforming our buildings to embrace low carbon heat sources – such as heat pumps.
So the development of renewable electricity is not just about the electricity sector but across the energy sector.
Of course we need to ensure that this will be done in a cost effective manner.
To date the focus of sustainable energy investment has predominantly been on onshore wind.
Wind will continue to have a major role to play in supporting the decarbonisation of our energy system but I am acutely conscious of the need to diversify our renewable generation portfolio in order to meet our ambitious climate and energy objectives.
I therefore expect other technologies, including solar, to have a growing role. To date only 6MW of solar PV is installed in Ireland – almost entirely on rooftops.
However, earlier this month, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland published a report on the Ireland's Solar Value Chain Opportunity. This report showed that the cost of solar PV modules has fallen by 80% since 2009 and is set to continue to fall in future years.
The reduction in solar PV prices will lead to solar becoming more cost competitive and thus taking a greater share of new renewable energy developments.
Solar undoubtedly has a key role to play in our transition to a low carbon energy future and presents significant opportunities for citizens and the economy as a whole.
Today’s co-development agreement places this technology at the heart of the solutions needed by our economy and society.
Depleted cutaway bogs, once a resource powering peat-burning power stations, have become a key resource in the production of clean energy.
The adoption of solar power builds on the existing partnerships between Bord na Móna and the ESB in onshore wind. These projects, along with the JV with Coillte on wind energy, demonstrate the scale of the commitment to renewable energy. Without the ambition and scale of investment shown to date by the state owned energy companies, the progress made on renewables would not have been possible. The Companies are ambitious both in their decision to enter this new market and the scale at which they propose to enter. I welcome ambition, whether it is today’s development or other similar initiatives.
Clean energy innovation is happening across the sector and I encourage other generators and players in the market to continue to be as ambitious as possible. Nothing short of dramatic changes in our energy system will suffice to achieve our decarbonisation objectives. A cost effective, secure and sustainable energy system will be a major achievement in this new decarbonised era.
Today’s announcement is another significant step towards that goal.