KPMG report, commissioned by Wind Energy Ireland, has revealed that 95% of industry experts believe planning delays and insufficient electricity grid capacity will prevent Ireland reaching our target for an 80% renewable electricity power system by 2030.

‘Act Now – Accelerating onshore renewable energy in Ireland’ is an industry-wide stakeholder consultation to identify the key issues that must be addressed to accelerate the delivery of onshore renewable energy in Ireland.

The report found that planning delays, insufficient grid capacity and a lack of joined-up thinking in policy development is slowing project delivery and putting Ireland’s renewable energy targets in jeopardy.

Wake-up call

Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, said: “This report should be a wake-up call to anybody who wants to cut our carbon emissions and end our dependency on imported fossil fuels. I believe we can, and must, be a leader in Europe’s energy revolution. We have the natural resources, we have the project pipeline and we have the ambition.

“This report highlights the obstacles to achieving these ambitions. Our planning system is overwhelmed, our grid has reached capacity and our policy lacks that joined-up thinking needed to fulfil our potential. These challenges must be addressed, and fast.

“Nobody questions the commitment, at every level of government, of those struggling to deliver these policies but they simply do not have anything close to the resources they need. Government and industry should be working together to accelerate the delivery of onshore renewables, to design a policy framework, a planning system and supportive grid infrastructure that is fully equipped to deliver our ambitions.”

James Delahunt, partner, KPMG Sustainable Futures, said: “There was unanimity across stakeholders that Ireland can and should be a leader in Europe’s energy transition. However, there was also a recognition that many elements of Ireland’s renewables ecosystem are already at capacity.

"A mobilisation of government and industry stakeholders is required if we are to extend this capacity to enable delivery of Ireland’s abundant renewable potential. Collaboration will be key.”

Three key priorities

The report highlights three key priorities for government to address if we are to have any chance of meeting our targets:

  1. A properly resourced planning system: planning is the single biggest barrier to delivering the Climate Action Plan. Too few projects are coming through the planning system too slowly. The length and uncertainty of decision times, coupled with the risk of judicial reviews, undermines Ireland’s efforts to build onshore renewable energy. The current bottlenecks must be addressed, and further backlogs prevented. This can be made possible by ensuring that we have an adequately resourced planning authority with the people who have the skills and expertise required to deliver decisions according to the timelines proposed in the new planning legislation.
  2. Grid capacity: Ireland’s grid is not currently fit for purpose. It was designed for the fossil fuel economy of the late 20th century. We need a complete overhaul to make the grid fit for a modern economy – for an Ireland powered by renewables. EirGrid’s strategy to reinforce our electricity grid, Shaping Our Electricity Future 1.1, deserves the full support of anybody committed to a secure, clean, affordable energy future for Ireland. Delivering the projects in this strategy will lay the foundation for not just achieving our 2030 targets but our ultimate goal of a totally zero-carbon Irish electricity system.
  3. Policy: there has been significant work carried out by the government on renewable energy policy in recent years, particularly offshore, but we need much more joined-up thinking if we are to remove the roadblocks to accelerating the development of onshore renewables. The government has set up a task-force to coordinate the delivery of offshore renewables. A similar approach should be put in place for onshore renewables, wind and solar, which will provide the overwhelming majority of savings in carbon emissions in this decade.

Cunniffe said: “State agencies and government departments do not have the resources to do all of this. Nor does industry. But, working together, we can identify and solve the challenges in the planning system and build support for a revitalised Irish electricity grid.”