The national electricity grid operator needs to add more energy from renewable sources to the power system over the next eight years.
Transforming the grid is necessary to meet the Government's target of up to 80% of electricity consumption coming from renewable sources by 2030.
To do this, a plan for grid development envisages 40 new grid infrastructure projects, representing a total investment of over €1bn during this time.
“We understand we cannot achieve this alone; we can only do this with public acceptance and input,” says EirGrid head of public engagement Sinead Dooley.
Following on from its 2021 consultation ‘Shaping Our Electricity Future’ to seek views and input from all sectors of society and industry about grid development, a commitment was made to establish citizens' roadshows across the country.
What are these roadshows and why are they being held?
With the first events planned for next month in Donegal, Dooley told the Irish Farmers Journal that it is about communities.
“Communities are at the heart of grid development and we know that when we work alongside communities and take on their feedback, better decisions are made.
"We want these roadshows to be beneficial for all who take part – community groups, businesses, members of the public, but also for EirGrid to get a better understanding of communities that host grid infrastructure. This helps us gain a deeper knowledge of their priorities and perspectives.”
The EirGrid Energy Citizens Roadshow takes place next month in Letterkenny and Donegal Town on 4 and 5 May respectively.
The events will provide information on how EirGrid plans to future-proof the electricity grid in the northwest and will invite people to engage with the guest panel, including SEAI and ESB Networks, in discussions on Ireland’s energy future, and what this will mean for the region.
On both evenings, there will be information stands showcasing the latest details on home energy efficiency upgrades, retrofitting grants and information about community micro-generation schemes.
Ireland’s national sustainable authority, SEAI, will provide information and advice to attendees.
SEAI works with householders, businesses and communities to create a cleaner energy future and offers a range of grants and funding supports across home, business and community.
“These events are a chance for communities, businesses and those involved in agriculture across Donegal to come along and hear how the northwest will play an integral role in the future of the electricity grid, while also finding out more about the supports that are available at a local level.
"ESB Networks will also be on hand to outline its micro-generation scheme,” explains Dooley.
The first of many, EirGrid will be hosting its next roadshow event in Sligo this summer, with more across the country planned for later in the year.
Speaking about the importance of engaging with farmers, Dooley explains EirGrid’s approach.
“We are developing closer relationships with a range of organisations and groups, including farming and business organisations.
"Farming communities have always been incredibly important stakeholders in EirGrid’s operations to upgrade the electricity grid.
"With these planned events, we hope to hear more from those involved in agriculture and provide them with beneficial information and resources, including details about microgeneration schemes, which holds so much opportunity for the sector.”
Roadmap for development
Discussing last year’s extensive consultation, which resulted in a roadmap for grid development, shaped by public and industry feedback, Dooley says the final roadmap encompasses a blended approach to grid development.
“Our approach looks at grid development not only from an economic, technical or a deliverability perspective, but also, and importantly, from a social acceptance perspective.
"EirGrid aims to minimise impacts on communities while still delivering on renewable ambitions, that is why dialogue and events such as these in Donegal are essential,” Dooley highlights.
With Donegal being one county that will be in line for extensive investment, with several new projects required to address new renewable generation in the northwest region, EirGrid has decided to launch the roadshow there.
“The investment in Donegal’s grid will include a new circuit, upgrading works and new technology projects to make the grid more efficient.
"The roadshow is a chance for people to hear more about this, along with supports that are out there for households, farms and businesses.
“We understand people’s concerns regarding energy consumption and the need for savings, that is why we are pleased to have exhibitors from a range of organisations and community energy groups in attendance.
"We look forward to hearing from industry leaders, inputs from community representatives and to share knowledge in working towards achieving our energy goals.”
The EirGrid Energy Citizens Roadshow will take place from 6.30pm to 8pm on 4 May at The Clanree Hotel in Letterkenny and on 5 May at The Abbey Hotel in Donegal Town.
To register your attendance, visit www.eirgrid.ie/shaping.