Transforming the electricity system for future generations: EirGrid’s Strategy 2020 – 2025
On 26 September 2019, EirGrid launched its 2020-2025 Strategy in response to the Irish Government’s 2019 Climate Action Plan.
The Climate Action Plan aims to transform our economy and society towards climate resilience and sustainability. This burden falls disproportionately on the electricity sector. The Plan sets an objective of increasing reliance on renewables from 30% to 70%, adding 12GW of new renewable energy capacity by 2030, coupled with the electrification of traditionally carbon intensive sectors such a transport, heating and cooling.
The scale of this challenge should not be underestimated. Not only will Ireland require very significant investment in infrastructure and system services in a relatively short period to support 12GW of additional renewables, Ireland must fundamentally rethink the way it approaches system development. A traditional model of developing the grid in response to connection applications will need to give way to a more visionary approach of proactively planning and developing the 2030 grid so it is ready for developers as they bring their projects to market. It is for this reason that EirGrid’s Strategy has been so eagerly awaited.
Consistent with the Climate Action Plan, EirGrid’s Strategy is underpinned by the purpose of transforming the electricity system for future generations. In pursuit of this purpose, EirGrid’s primary goal is to lead the island’s electricity sector on sustainability and decarbonisation. EirGrid’s strategy acknowledges the need to connect up to 10GW of additional renewable generation to a system which is capable of supporting up to 95% renewable electricity at any one time. This transformation of the electricity sector is underpinned by three supportive goals:
- Operate, develop and enhance the all-island grid and market: EirGrid’s strategy restates their commitment of reliability to consumers and large-scale customers, such as data centres. In achieving this aim, EirGrid’s goal is to ensure that the grid remains strong, flexible, increasingly enabled with technology, and to keep the wholesale market efficient and effective. This goal includes continued work to ensure that grid infrastructure is prepared to take more renewables by optimising existing assets and developing new infrastructure.
- Work with partners for positive change: In transitioning to a sustainable, low-carbon future, EirGrid’s strategy emphasises the maintenance of collaborative programmes with partners who own and operate grid transmission (ESB Networks and NIE Networks), or customers that generate or use large amounts of power, as well as investing in new partnerships with global players who can facilitate the energy system transformation.
- Engage for better outcomes for all: Notwithstanding the advances in technology which will allow less intrusive ways of transferring power, all of Ireland’s electricity grids depend on large-scale infrastructure. EirGrid aim to deepen and broaden their consultation and ability to respond in meaningful ways to fears and concerns of landowners and communities to accept new infrastructure. Further, EirGrid aim to invest time and resources in a strategic and transparent way “to collaborate with regulators to agree how best to manage the energy transition in response to the challenge of climate change.“
While EirGrid’s Strategy is a critical step on the path to achieving Ireland’s 2030 climate goals, it is only part of the solution. For EirGrid to achieve these objectives, the same level of vision and ambition will be required from policy makers and regulators to approve the required strategic technological and infrastructural investments required by EirGrid. We eagerly await the next stage of implementation of this Strategy to create the necessary foundations for Ireland’s 2030 climate targets.
The authors wish to thank Desislava Valkanova for her contribution to this article.