Ireland’s precarious energy situation was highlighted this month in a report by the Irish Academy of Engineering which called into question the prudence of phasing out gas-fired energy production by 2030.
An advisory group made up of academics, the Academy also noted the negative impact of the war in Ukraine which has already seen a 50% spike in global oil prices and has particularly jeopardised Central Europe which was formerly heavily reliant on Russian supplies.
Calling into question 2030 government goals around decarbonisation, the report describes an overreliance on unreliable domestic renewable energy sources currently performing far worse than expected.
Citing various instances where wind power especially slumped to just 0.2% of energy demand, the simple reason for this in the report’s eyes was the fact that the wind simply wasn’t blowing.
With natural gas making up 63% of energy production at peak times and coal 20% the report was clear in stating that natural gas regardless of green ambitions will remain front and centre in Irish energy production and likely increase in importance.
“Natural gas will be required in Ireland for decades to come to ensure a stable electricity supply at times of low wind generation. The peak daily gas volumes required for electricity generation will increase – even as annual volumes decrease – due to the move away from other fossil fuel sources for power generation”
Examining the future energy market it was the Academy’s opinion that the government will and has begun to compromise on unrealistic green targets with the country having an especially high indirect reliance on Russian diesel supplies.
Predicting a potential rationing of supplies across Europe the report recommended an expansion of the 90-day oil storage capacity at Whitegate Cork with 40% of gas supplies Europe wide originating from Russia.
With domestic gas production only occurring at Corrib, Ireland remains the 6th largest natural gas user in the EU with 70% of this supply imported through the UK at Moffat in Scotland.
As to policy recommendations, the Academy suggests electricity generation using more tar-based heavy fuel oil at Tarbet power plant, the extension on the deadline for closing down Moneypoint coal-fired station past 2025 and the transfer to refined oil from natural gas.
With Russian supplies being effectively eliminated under sanctions and Ireland’s indirect source of gas from Norway being impacted by diversion to Germany, gas storage will increasingly become important in the years to come.
With no suitable geological formations for gas formations outside of salt deposits in Antrim, failure to properly develop natural gas production on the Shannon will further cut down on the ability of the state to store reserves.
Originally planned to be a €650 million gas terminal, plans to construct the terminal on the Shannon estuary were postponed by a legal case brought by the Friends of the Irish Environment.
With the government promising 5000 MW in wind power through offshore wind generation this figure doesn’t take into account the precarity of the power source as well as the increased cost of materials especially since hostilities began in Ukraine.
On nuclear power the Academy rules out the potential due to high short term capital costs but mentions how Small Modular Reactors could be of interest should they become commercially and technically viable.
Positioned at the end of almost every supply chain and leveraged heavily on the capriciousness of wind power generation failure to properly grasp the nettle of energy security may very well lead to the lights going out in Ireland. Hampered by green edicts and blinded by state policy there is no way on earth that the green agenda on energy production will survive in the years ahead.
Cover Image: RTG