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Ireland updates climate action plan as Equinor withdraws from ESB offshore venture

Highlights

80% power from renewables by 2030

Offshore legislation 'urgently needed'

Boost for electrification of transport

The Irish government has published a revised climate action plan to reduce the country's carbon emissions by 51% by 2030 as Norway's Equinor withdrew from a large offshore wind project.

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The Nov. 4 plan targets doubling of renewables' contribution to the power mix, electrification of rail and bus services and close to a million electric vehicles supported by Eur10,000 ($11,535) grants.

"By 2030, up to 80% of electricity will be generated using renewable energy, with a mix of 5 GW from offshore wind, 8 GW from onshore wind and 1.5-2.5 GW from solar PV," the government said.

Renewables accounted for 43% of electricity consumed in Ireland during 2020. Gas-fired power met 50% of demand.

Ireland has 4.31 GW of onshore wind but only 25 MW of offshore wind at Arklow Bank.

The country is only now organizing the necessary legislation to get offshore wind farms permitted and built.

Meanwhile, Norway's Equinor confirmed it had pulled out of its Irish offshore wind partnership with state utility ESB on Nov. 4.

An assessment of regulatory processes was part of its decision, according to a report in the Irish Examiner.

ESB and Equinor were co-developing the two-phase, maximum 1.5 GW Moneypoint offshore wind farm 16 km off the Clare and Kerry coastline.

A key maritime area planning bill is currently before parliament and is expected to be enacted before the end of the year.

Noel Cunniffe, CEO of sector association Wind Energy Ireland, said the country was not reforming Ireland's planning and regulatory framework quickly enough "to deliver offshore wind and meet the targets in the Climate Action Plan."

Once the maritime bill was enacted, developers would hopefully be able to apply for planning permission next year "and get them delivered for 2030," Cunniffe said.

A new grid system for offshore wind was also needed, he said.

"We need to get government, industry and [network operator] Eirgrid around a table to figure out how we can connect these projects to the grid as efficiently as possible," he said.

ESB said it would continue developing the Moneypoint project.

Cunniffe said Ireland would need "seven to 10 wind farms around the east, south and west coast by 2030," and a pipeline of 20-GW of proposals in various stages of development could deliver.

Transport emissions

Further measures planned for the power sector in the updated climate program included increased electricity storage, deployment of zero-emissions gas (biogas, biomethane and hydrogen) and production of renewable hydrogen for use in other industries, all aimed at delivering a 62%-81% reduction in sector emissions by 2030.

In transport, the plan set out targets for 845,000 passenger electric vehicles, 95,000 zero-emission vans and 3,500 zero-emission heavy goods vehicles.

The bioethanol blend rate was to reach 10% for existing gasoline cars and 20% for existing diesel cars.

Replacement bus and rail services will have to be green, to include the addition of 1,500 EV buses and expanded electrified rail services, all aimed at a 42%-50% reduction in transport emissions.

In buildings the plan sets a target for 2.7 TWh of district heating demand by 2030 and a 50% reduction in public sector building emissions.

In industry, it would seek to deliver carbon capture and storage facilities in two cement/lime plants to achieve 1.5 million mtCO2e savings.

In all the program was forecast to require Eur125 billion of public and private sector investment, the government said.