Sunday 18 August 2019

Investment vital says ESB as it sets out plan for greener future

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Paul Melia Environment Editor

GREENHOUSE gas emissions are to be reduced by up to 60pc by ramping up development of renewable electricity and using it to heat homes and power the transport fleet.

More than half of all power generated in the State will be from renewable sources by the mid-2020s, the ESB says, and "profound" changes will be needed across the electricity, heat and transport sectors if Ireland is to reduce emissions to help combat climate change.

The 'Ireland's Low Carbon Future - Dimensions of a Solution' report says domestic heat pumps and electric vehicles will deliver "immediate" solutions, but there will also be a need for "intelligent" energy use.

This includes battery storage and district heating in urban areas to help develop a more stable, efficient and sustainable energy system. The report comes after Moody's suggested last week that Ireland's power prices would remain low in historic terms over the next five years, partly due to the continued growth in wind energy.

It also comes amid growing concern that international pledges made under the Paris Climate Accord will not be sufficient to hold global warming to no more than 2C.

While Ireland has committed to reducing emissions by 80pc by 2050 - during a period when the population is expected to rise by more than one million - it will miss its 2020 targets and there are concerns that the pace of change is too slow.

The ESB report sets out the scale of the challenge, saying that by 2050 our total emissions must be equivalent to half of those generated today from the transport sector alone, or just over six million tonnes.

Developing more efficient engines, cars or power plants will not be sufficient. "It will need radical new thinking and fundamental changes in the way we consume energy, particularly in those sectors where emissions are highest.

"With this comes significant investment," it says. Among the key recommendations include:

Securing cross-party political support on implementing the National Mitigation Plan;

Setting out long-term policy on VRT and motor tax for petrol and diesel cars;

Transforming the State's transport fleet to electric;

Providing low-cost finance to retrofit homes.

On electricity generation, it says wind and solar will rise towards 50pc, but technical solutions to intermittency will be needed, "as well as a greater degree of social acceptance than at present". Coal-burning Moneypoint will be replaced, with carbon capture and storage required so conventional gas plants can be used to provide back-up when wind speeds are low or the sun doesn't shine.

Nuclear is ruled out, on the basis that existing plants are too big for the Irish system, but this could change as technology improves. On transport, 60pc of cars sold by 2050 will be electric, with heavy goods vehicles powered by compressed national gas, biomethane and biofuels.

Electric trucks will be provided in the medium-term.

On home and workplace heating, zero-emission building standards will be required, plus deep retrofits of stock.

Heat pumps, biomass and district heating are highlighted as possible solutions. "Feasible low-regret technologies exist to make significant inroads into the transition to a low carbon energy future," it adds. "Early action is cheaper in the long run."

Irish Independent

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