The Shaping Our Electricity Future initiative details approaches to developing the electricity grid in order to meet ambitious 2030 renewable energy targets.
EirGrid, along with Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan TD, launched the initiative in March and has been seeking feedback as part of a public consultation that closes next Monday 14 June.
EirGrid chief executive Mark Foley explains: “The grid requires unprecedented change in the next 10 years. This transition to clean electricity will affect everyone in Ireland and will unquestionably be difficult.
"However, the benefits will be truly transformative at both a societal and an economic level. Because of this, we have been hosting a nationwide consultation to find an agreed approach to reach the 2030 targets. We want to collaborate with the public and all stakeholders.”
Over the past 14 weeks, the company has been holding workshops, meetings and fora across the country to inform people and gather feedback that will directly influence the final roadmap for developing the national electricity grid.
EirGrid has been asked by the Government to transform the electricity system in anticipation of a future without electricity generated by coal, oil, peat and, ultimately, one with net zero emissions.
Specifically, it must redevelop the grid to manage 70% of Ireland’s electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030.
EirGrid does not generate electricity – it transports it across the national grid from where it is generated.
The grid supplies power directly to large energy users and to ESB Networks, which then distributes it to every user in the country, including hospitals, schools and homes.
There will be enough new sources of renewable electricity to meet the 2030 target, but the electricity grid will have to be upgraded to carry this extra power
EirGrid has been seeking feedback on four approaches to achieving this, as well as meeting the projected increase in demand for electricity over the coming years.
1. Generation-Led: Government policy would influence where renewable energy is generated – favouring locations where the grid is already strong
2. Developer-Led: In this approach, we continue to connect new sources of renewable electricity as requested in any location
3. Technology-Led: This approach uses technical solutions to make the grid more resilient so it can better handle the variable nature of renewable energy
4. Demand-Led: Government policy determines where large energy users locate in Ireland
The consultation material was prepared with the support of the National Adult Literacy Agency to ensure the language is accessible to non-technical audiences.
In addition to this, EirGrid has launched a consultation portal at consult.eirgrid.ie that hosts the consultation material and acts as an accessible platform for people to submit their views.
It is one of the largest consultations of its type ever undertaken in the state and EirGrid has been working with:
Modelled on Ireland’s Citizens Assembly, EirGrid’s ‘Deliberative Dialogue’ took place over three days in May and was moderated by Tom Arnold, former Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide, who chaired the original Constitutional Convention from 2012 to 2014.
The 99 participants, representing every county in Ireland, with different backgrounds, experiences and ideas, heard from and challenged external experts.
Earlier in May, over 100 people participated in a Civil Society Forum chaired by Marie Donnelly, Chair of Ireland’s Climate Change Advisory Council.
This brought together representatives from a wide range of sectors, including academia, local government, agriculture, energy and the environment.
Participants in the forum discussed, explored and challenged EirGrid’s work to date on the initiative and provided valuable input into shaping the outcome of the public consultation.
The consensus from participants was that communities must be at the heart of the delivery of any future solutions.
EirGrid will publish a comprehensive report after the consultation finishes. In the interim, it is worth noting that there are already a number of themes emerging.
EirGrid, as operators of the grid, will play a key role in achieving the 2030 target, but it cannot deliver this goal on its own.
This is a target that will require change across the entire electricity sector.
There needs to be action from electricity generators and developers, from regulators, from government, from ESB Networks, and from large-scale energy users.
EirGrid will also be working closely with local communities who host grid infrastructure projects and so will be seeking to gain their valued trust and support.
All key players will need to work together and there will be a need for flexibility and innovation from all.
This consultation has been based on what EirGrid can do, but it also considers how others in the electricity sector can help reach the 2030 target.
In fact, some of the four draft approaches are dependent on what other organisations can do to make this target possible.
Because of this, and of the complexity of this 10-year transition, the four draft approaches are not standalone solutions.
There are some foundation projects that are common to all four approaches – and the final plan is likely to include elements of all approaches, strongly led by one of them.
As the nationwide programme of consultation activities draws to a close, the findings will be reviewed and will feed into the final Shaping Our Electricity Future strategy.
It is anticipated that this will be published by the end of the year, setting out the final roadmap to achieving our renewable electricity goals.