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Significant Gas Fired Generation Required During Transition to Zero Carbon
The Irish Government has adopted a challenging target of having 70% of the country’s electricity produced from renewable sources (mainly wind and solar) by 2030.
In its newly published report, ‘The Challenge of High Levels of Renewable Electricity in Ireland’s Electricity System’ The Irish Academy of Engineering (IAE), seeks to identify the risks in the transition to renewable electricity and recommend prudent actions by policy makers.
There is broad agreement that long term decarbonisation of the planet’s energy systems requires a major shift to electricity as an energy vector. Ireland is planning to have nine hundred thousand electric vehicles on the road by 2030 as well as six hundred thousand heat pumps.
Don Moore says “In this context, a failure of the power system would have a catastrophic effect on normal economic life. In order to maintain necessary reliability standards while replacing coal, oil and peat generation, Ireland will require significant gas fired generation for the next two decades.”
Gas consumption will reduce as generating units will operate with lower load factors, but peak gas demand for power generation will be significantly more than today. Don Moore states that “Power system reliability is therefore critically dependent on secure primary energy supplies (natural gas) to the Island of Ireland”.
By 2030, the island of Ireland will be almost totally dependent on Great Britain (GB) for its gas supply. GB in turn will import up to 75% of its gas due to declining North Sea production.
In the Academy’s view, developing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal in Ireland is highly advisable to ensure secure, diverse and cost-effective gas supplies. There are several major LNG exporting counties, such as Qatar, Algeria, Nigeria, and Russia which have enormous gas reserves, and Don Moore says “ Ireland is one of the very few maritime countries in Europe which does not have an LNG import facility”. The global LNG market is now extremely competitive with over 20 exporting countries and more than 40 importing countries.
Alternatives to gas fired generation to support 70% renewable electricity have been proposed, these include:
- Pumped Hydro Storage
- Compressed Air Storage
- Battery Storage
- Carbon Capture and Storage
- Increased Interconnection
- Hydrogen Fuel Options
- Marine Energy (Wave/Tidal)
- Nuclear Power
The Academy’s considered conclusion is that none of these options can be implemented on a scale that would significantly reduce Ireland’s gas fired generation by 2030.