Here's how Legislation will Benefit Renewable Energy in the Future
As renewable energy markets mature and the technologies advance, the type of intervention required by Government typically changes. The first intervention at an early stage, is usually grant funding which is related to specific technologies. The second stage of intervention tends to be more sophisticated and is based on tariffs and support mechanisms. They can be either obligations (stick) or incentives (carrots).
Most Governments develop policy and mechanisms first in the renewable electricity sector. We have now reached the point, where electricity from onshore wind and PV, is coming close to being competitive, against fossil fuels, the point of grid parity. The Government does not seem to have recognised this and has been slow to implement the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme, “RESS”. We are generating 23% of our electricity from renewables, with a 2020 target of 40%, looming fast.
The Enduring Connection Policy ECP1, makes no distinction between generation technology types, and should be amended to give renewables priority for grid connection. In its current guise it is not in keeping with the current Renewable Energy Directive (RED 2009/28/EC), which clearly states in Article 16 that: “Member States shall also provide for either priority access or guaranteed access to the grid-system of electricity produced from renewable energy sources”.
However, electricity accounts for less than a third of all of the energy that we consume. Most of the energy is associated with heating and transport fuels, so let’s look at how those sectors might benefit from new legislation and new initiatives.
Heat makes up about 45% of all of the energy consumed in the country. That sector will be addressed by the new Support Scheme for Renewable Heat, SSRH. It has taken us a long time to get there, but the scheme should be live before the end of this year and will raise us up from the 6.6% level of renewable heat to an initial target of 12%. At least it is a move in the right direction.
The Biofuels Obligation Scheme, BOS, is the main driver in the renewable transport sector. Ireland has only reached 5.2% renewable transport fuels, which is half of the 10% target to 2020. This is due to low deployment rates of liquid biofuels in the main fleet and total exclusion in some parts of the fleet – 40% of engine fuel is currently not included in the revised BOS. Fuels used in aviation, agriculture, marine and construction sectors are not even included in the scheme. Advanced biofuels such as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in the form of biomethane, and hydroge must be considered and could be expanded if they had access to the gas grid.
Renewable Energy does not sit in isolation from other environmental issues. The latest projections from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have revealed Ireland will “at best” only achieve a 1% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, significantly below the target of 20%. The findings, published in May 2018, suggest that fossil fuels, such as coal and peat, are expected to remain “significant contributors” to emissions from power generation and offset the benefits of increased renewable generation.
A report by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has found that in 2017 there was an absolute decoupling of energy related CO2 emissions from economic growth. The report revealed that Modified Domestic Demand (a measure of economic growth) increased by 3.9%, between 2016 and 2017, while energy related CO2 emissions fell by 2.2%. Overall energy use grew by 0.2% over the same period. The report noted that a major contributing factor to the fall in emissions was the change in the fuel mix for electricity generation. Coal and peat use fell by 21% and 6.4% respectively and renewables grew by 18%. This saw the carbon emissions from electricity production fall by almost 10%. The SEAI added: “We need to use this momentum to redouble our efforts, invest further and get behind the drive to deliver a clean energy future.”
It would appear, from the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment debate on the 24th April 2018, that the Government is in the early discussions stages with member EU countries, who are in excess of their 2020 targets, to pay for statistical transfers to offset Ireland’s 2020 shortfall. This is a political fudge, that shows a lack of real commitment. We can only hope that the Government recognises that we have significant Renewable Energy Resources, which are probably better than the vast majority of other Member States, and then produces legislation to encourage those resources to be commercialised.