Energy Update: Review 2016

Author:Mr Peter McLay
Profession:Mason Hayes & Curran

The Irish energy sector has made good progress to deliver the Government's target of 40% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020. 

Irish energy overview

During 2016, there was a continuation of the strong development, financing and construction activity in onshore wind farms. By 2020, 16% of Ireland's overall energy demand is required to be derived from renewable sources, including a 40% sub-target in relation to electricity.

Approximately 350MW of renewable generation was connected to the Irish electricity grid during the year, bringing the total to approximately 4,400MW. This annual connection figure comfortably exceeded the approximately 150MW that was connected during 2015.

A note of caution was provided by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, who published an analysis of Ireland's progress towards its 2020 renewable energy targets. While the installation of onshore wind farms was described as remaining broadly on track, it is evident that the targets in relation to transport and heat are proving more problematic - possibly because it is these targets that require behavioural change by the largest number of actors.

A relatively high-profile setback for Irish biomass generation - regarded as a key enabler, among non-wind technologies, of Ireland's renewable electricity targets - was the appointment of a liquidator to Mayo Renewable Power Limited. The company had been developing a 42.5MW wood-chip fuelled generating station in the west of Ireland. However, a number of unrelated smaller Irish biomass projects are understood to be proceeding, and it is not clear that Mayo Renewable Power's difficulties are indicative of more general problems in the sector.

A more positive development for the electricity grid was the obtaining, by EirGrid plc of planning permission for the Irish segment of its major North-South Interconnector project.

Irish energy policy developments

One year ago, our  summary of 2015 Irish energy policy developments included the publication, by the Irish Government, of an Energy White Paper entitled "Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future". 2015 closed on a high note on the global stage also, with the adoption of the Paris Agreement, in December, by the 21st annual conference of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). Perhaps not surprisingly, 2016 has been a quieter year for energy policy.

Following the Irish general election in February 2016 and the formation...

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