The annual Renewables Global Status Report from REN 21 has confirmed that Ireland is second only to Denmark in the share of electricity provided by wind energy. Once Denmark’s large offshore wind energy supply is accounted for, this confirms that no country provides a greater share of its electricity from onshore wind than Ireland.
Last year, 32.5 per cent of Ireland’s electricity came from wind power. While this is second to Denmark overall, which met an estimated 47 per cent of its demand from wind, the Danes have the advantage of a large and developed offshore wind industry. When this is accounted for, Ireland is first in the world for the share of electricity demand met by onshore wind farms.
Ireland is also one of only four countries in the world – the others are Denmark, Germany and Uruguay – which met more than 30 per cent of demand last year from variable renewable electricity like wind or solar power. Dr David Connolly, CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association, said: “This is an incredible achievement for a country like Ireland and a tribute to almost 30 years of determined effort by our members. “Last year was a record-breaking year for the industry, as we provided a third of the country’s electricity and we are confident our numbers will be even better for 2020. Wind energy provided almost half of Ireland’s electricity during the first three months of the year. Every year we are cutting more CO₂ emissions, reducing Ireland’s dependency on imported fossil fuels and driving down the wholesale price of electricity.”
Total CO₂ emissions in electricity generation fell by 11.7 per cent in 2018 (6.9 per cent in 2017) which was the largest drop of any sector as wind energy displaced fossil fuels and the REN21 report suggests there will be an even larger drop once Ireland’s CO₂ figures for 2019 are announced later this year. The carbon intensity of our electricity system – the amount of CO₂ emitted to produce a unit of energy – is now at its lowest level on record. It fell from 437 g CO₂/kWh in 2017 to 377 g CO₂/kWh in 2018.
As new wind farms connect and the Government puts in place a planning system for offshore wind energy, the industry believes that it could be Ireland’s leading source of power by the end of 2025. Dr Connolly continued: “Our target in the Climate Action Plan is to double our installed onshore wind capacity and we are confident we have the pipeline to enable us to do so. We also have enormous offshore wind energy resources with more than 12 GW of offshore projects at some stage of development. “With the right planning systems – on land and offshore – and the right policies, there is no reason why wind energy should not be providing most of Ireland’s electricity by the middle of this decade. It is critical, if we are to achieve this, that the new Government prioritises reforming our planning system, so we can develop wind energy off our coasts and ensures that the new Wind Energy Guidelines enable us to build the next generation of onshore wind farms.”
Dr Connolly also paid tribute to the work of Ireland’s electricity system operators in connecting and integrating renewable electricity. He said: “Building wind farms is only half of the story. Reaching number one in the world for onshore wind would not be possible without ESB Networks’ success in connecting new projects. “It is also only because EirGrid is a world leader in integrating renewable electricity onto the system that we are able to take advantage of particularly windy days when up to two-thirds of Ireland is powered by wind. Over the next decade industry, system operators and policymakers will need to work together ever more closely to ensure we can hit our 2030 targets and make Ireland a leader, not just in renewable electricity, but in the broader fight against climate change. We will also need to ensure that we bring communities with us as part of the energy transition. They must be empowered to work with developers to design projects and to ensure that they maximise the impact from the community benefit funding provided by renewable energy projects.”
While the REN21 report does not provide a separate breakdown of the share of electricity demand made by onshore and offshore wind, those figures are available from Wind Europe’s 2019 report. In 2019, wind energy provided approximately 32.5 per cent of Ireland’s electricity. Twenty-four new wind farms were connected to provide an additional 463 MW of capacity – enough to power more than a quarter of a million Irish homes.
Source – Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA)