Under Directive 2009/28/EC Ireland was set a target of 16% of all energy consumption to be from renewable sources by 2020, up from 3.1% in 2005. Each Member State was required to have at least 10% renewable transport consumption by 2020 and was required to produce a National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP), setting out how the overall target would be achieved across the electricity, transport and heating sectors.
Ireland set out in its NREAP that it intended to reach its target by 40% renewable electricity, 10% renewable transport and 12% renewable heating, which together amount to 16% of overall energy consumption in 2020.
At the end of 2012, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) estimates that almost 19% of electricity consumption was from renewable sources. The first progress report on the NREAP estimates that approximately 4000MW of installed renewable capacity is required in order to achieve our target. We need approximately 2100MW of additional new renewable capacity to be installed in the period to 2020 to achieve 40% renewable electricity.
This is a large amount of new generation and will be challenging to achieve. Significant new grid build and grid upgrade work is required in order to connect this large volume of new generation. In addition, significant operational changes are required to grid operation to ensure that the grid is capable of absorbing this significant amount of new intermittent asynchronous renewable generation while ensuring system security and stability.
While this will be challenging, EirGrid has launched a programme of work known as DS3 in order to manage the operational changes necessary to achieve 40% renewable electricity by 2020. This requires an ability for the system to securely cater for 75% instantaneous penetration of wind generation (i.e. that at least 75% of our electricity consumption can be from wind at times when wind is available). Currently the system limits this to 50% for operational and security reasons. Several operational and system changes are required to make this step change and it will be challenging, but work is underway to ensure that it is achievable.
There is still an enormous amount of work and effort required to ensure that Ireland achieves the challenging legally binding target assigned under Directive 2009/28/EC. There is no intention to revise this upwards in the current circumstances.