Gas set to be “a requirement” in Ireland’s energy mix till 2030

Gas will still “very much be a requirement” in Ireland’s energy mix up until 2030, an Oireachtas committee heard today.

Speaking before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA), Chief Executive Officer of the Electricity Association of Ireland (EAI) Dara Lynott, said that gas will be “used quite a bit less” but nonetheless will still be required by the end of the decade.  

According to EirGrid, the operator and developer of Ireland’s electricity grid, electricity generation is due to increase by 40 per cent in 2030, while carbon emissions are due to be halved in the same timeframe in accordance with Programme for Government commitments.

EirGrid also project that the bulk of this 40 per cent increase in generation will mostly come from wind, with wind power generation set to double in size from 5.5 to 11.6 gigawatts of capacity.

Mr. Lynott also noted that post-2030, there will need to be a “rapid move to either zero carbon back-up generation, or negative carbon back-up generation,” in order to successfully reach the zero per cent emissions target by 2050.

Back-up generation is currently being provided by gas, with hydrogen or Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) being considered from 2030 onwards, according to Mr. Lynott.

Future reliance on gas has been widely criticised by climate activists, given that methane leakage occurs at all stage of its production.

Methane is estimated to have a warming effect 84 to 87 times greater than carbon dioxide.

Mr. Lynott suggested that green hydrogen, whereby hydrogen is generated through renewable energy, should be used to power “hard-to-electricity sectors”, such as aviation and heavy transport.

The EAI also stressed to the Committee that cost-benefit analysis of the technology must take place in order to provide cleaner back-up energy generation into the future.

Data centres & electricity demand

How renewably-generated electricity would be used in the coming decades was also addressed at the Committee, with particular concern being raised by members around the growing expansion of data centres.  

According to the EAI, both climate ambition and energy demand are rising simultaneously. Ireland will be expected to produce more renewable energy to meet the 30 to 40 per cent increase in demand. 

Electricity currently takes up 30 per cent of all energy use in Ireland, and as electricity demand grows, other areas that take up energy like transport and heat will decrease their share, according to Mr. Lynott.

Data centres, which are buildings or spaces used to house computer systems, are projected to account for almost a third of energy demand by 2028 and currently account for 1.58 per cent of Ireland’s emissions.

EirGrid have also warned that by 2026, the demand for data centres and electric cars could well exceed Ireland’s energy supply.  

Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins highlighted the anticipated energy burden data centres are set to bring and pointed out that these large computer centres are set to be in direct competition with public services that need electricity to operate. 

If data centres are providing a non-essential service, they are posed to be overwhelming electricity distribution, according to Senator Higgins.

To date, there are 53 operational data centres in Ireland, with 8 more under construction and 26 with planning approval.

Their total number are expected to double by 2025. 

Story by Shauna Burdis and Thomas Hamilton