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Minister of State Ossian Smyth TD: Securing Ireland’s energy future

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications Ossian Smyth TD discusses actions by the Government to mitigate security of supply concerns, energy affordability, and the importance of renewable diversification.

The Green Party TD believes that, whilst Ireland has been successful in onshore wind development, a shortage of offshore wind, solar and anaerobic digestion leaves Ireland “lacking that strength that comes with diversity”.

Security of supply review

Pointing to the security of supply review, currently being undertaken by the Department for the Environment, Climate and Communications, the Minister of State says that it will “examine potential risks to both our natural gas and electricity supplies and examines a range of measures to mitigate these risks”.

Smyth emphasises his belief in the importance of having a diverse renewables portfolio, as well as the developing storage, demand side response and interconnection which will support the State’s decarbonisation and energy security agenda.

Smyth says that the risks identified and examined as part of the review are demand side risks and supply side risks. Demand side risks include weather events and significant increases in demand whilst the supply side risks that have been identified include a disruption to UK gas imports, geopolitical risks, electricity generation capacity deficits, and low availability of wind generation.

“The Government recognises the need to diversify our energy supply and end our reliance on fossil fuels.” Minister of State Ossian Smyth TD

A longlist of mitigation options was created to address the identified risks and then these options were appraised against a set of key criteria to identify a short list of appropriate mitigation options for further analysis. The key selection criteria used were:

  1. consistency with the Climate Action Plan;
  2. security of supply impact; and
  3. feasibility of implementation.

“A range of measures to mitigate these risks were examined as part of the technical analysis. The mitigation measures include options such as the need for additional capacity to import energy, a reduction in energy use, energy storage, fuel diversification and renewable gases such as biomethane and hydrogen,” the Minister of State explains.

“All of these mitigation options were modelled under a number of shock scenarios to understand the impact of each option and the level of security of supply that they can provide within the timeframe to 2030.”

A consultation on the review of security of energy supply of Ireland’s electricity and gas systems was launched on 19 September 2022.

Tackling the cost-of-living

Smyth states that the Budget was designed to ensure that people are protected from the worst of the consequences of the war in Ukraine, and outlines measures taken in the budget to ensure affordability for consumers which include:

  • energy credits worth an additional €600: €600 in additional energy credits will be paid over winter 22/23 in addition to the €200 credit already paid in April/May 2022. These credits will be reflected directly on consumer electricity bills;
  • a Public Service Obligation (PSO) rebate worth €89 which the CRU confirmed that the PSO for 22/23 will be negative. Every domestic household will receive this €89 as a credit on their electricity bills, representing an annual saving of €140.76; and
    lower VAT on energy bills worth €64: The 9 per cent VAT rate on energy bills has been extended to February 2023. This represents a gain worth approximately €64 for the average household over the period October 2022 to February 2023.

Smyth adds: “In the longer term, the Government recognises the need to diversify our energy supply and end our reliance on fossil fuels. As such, the Government has in recent months committed to a number of new ambitious targets to increase Ireland’s renewable energy capacity. These include an offshore wind target of 7GW, a solar energy target of 5.5GW and incentivising the use of up to 5.7TWh of anaerobic digestion, all by 2030.”

Security of electricity supply

Stating that the supply of the State’s electricity is linked to the supply of natural gas, the Minister of State says that “about half of electricity generated in Ireland comes from gas-fired power stations. Renewables accounted for 42 per cent of electricity generation, 37 per cent of which was from wind energy alone, but this can be intermittent as back-up is needed when the wind doesn’t blow”.

“Remaining electricity generation comes from a mixture of coal, peat and oil. Ireland’s gas-fired power plants are capable of running on secondary fuel such as oil if there is a disruption to gas supplies; these plants have limited reserves of oil stored onsite for emergency situations.”

Outlining the challenges to electricity supply which arise from situations removed from the war in Ukraine, Smyth states long-term solutions which include “procuring new capacity through capacity auctions; procuring additional temporary generation; extending the availability of existing power stations; and improved demand-side measures”.