Ireland published its green paper on Energy, in May 2014. Ireland has excellent renewable energy resources, which will be a critical and growing component of Irish energy supply to 2020 and well beyond. Under the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, Ireland is committed to produce, from renewable sources, at least 16% of all energy consumed by 2020. This will be met by 40% from renewable electricity, 12% from renewable heat, and 10% from the renewable transport sector.
The renewable energy contribution to thermal energy rose from 2.5% in 2003 to 5.2% in 2012, resulting in more than 40,000 homes and more than 550 businesses using renewable energy for heat. Although these figures have contributed to the overall target, the increase to 5.2% has been very gradual. In order to reach the 12% which has been set, the actions which have been set must be carried out with greater effect.
With respect to the individual sectors, at the end of 2012, Ireland was at 19.6% in renewable electricity, and 3.8% in renewable transport. The National Renewable Energy Action Plan to 2020, submitted to the EU Commission as required under the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive, is the framework within which Ireland has set out the detailed policies, schemes and measures to deliver the required trajectory of growth from renewable sources.
Bio-energy has historically been the largest contributor to Irish renewable energy through heat generation, and is anticipated to play a significant role in further displacing fossil fuels, especially in the larger heat users in the commercial and industrial sector, stimulating local economic activity, and improving the country’s net trading position. This sector will need greater incentivisation in order to ensure that the required 2020 targets of renewable heat are to be achieved. In this regard, a central focus of the Bioenergy Strategy is the identification of the existing and additional bioenergy policies and schemes necessary to cost-effectively contribute to the 2020 renewable energy target and position Ireland on a pathway to further decarbonising the energy system. These challenges will need to be addressed for both 2020, and the longer term horizons to 2030 and 2050.
The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan and National Renewable Energy Action Plan scenario for renewable heat assumes that the historic rate of deployment of biomass use for heat continues to 2020. Further, additional biomass CHP installations, driven by the feed-in tariff for biomass CHP and the expected contribution from building regulations requiring some renewable heat, are assumed.
The strategy recognises the economic, environmental and energy opportunities that a developed bioenergy sector, fuelled by indigenously source biomass can deliver. It sets out the measures required to support the mobilisation of home grown, renewable and sustainable biomass from wastes and residues through to purpose grown energy crops and wood. These measures which have been set may not be challenging enough to ensure that the 2020 targets are met. Ireland has the optimal environment to grow biomass materials, so with the correct legislation and policy incentives put in place these targets can be easily met if acted upon now.