‘Wind and solar alone will never meet Ireland’s energy demands’

Speaking at the inaugural Irish Gas Forum today, Wednesday, October 23, Denis O’Sullivan, managing director of Gas Networks Ireland (GNI), said: “While Ireland has excellent renewable energy resources, the reality is that wind and solar alone will never meet Ireland’s energy demands.”

However, O’Sullivan explained how, through “a combination of technologies”, GNI can reduce Ireland’s overall CO2 emissions by a third.

He said: “While natural gas emits roughly one sixth of Ireland’s emissions, delivering on GNI’s Vision 2050 plan will create a carbon neutral gas network and reduce Ireland’s total CO2 emissions by one third across key sectors including electricity, industry, heat, transport and agriculture.

“This will make a major contribution to getting Ireland back on track to meet its emission reduction and renewable energy targets.

Ireland’s €2.6 billion gas network is one of the most modern and safe gas networks in the world with no capacity constraints, it can be used with minimal investment to facilitate renewable energies including renewable gas.

“As an energy source, natural gas is of key strategic importance to Ireland, representing 30% of the country’s primary energy mix. Natural gas also powers approximately 50% of Ireland’s electricity.”

Continuing, O’Sullivan said: “The gas network is in many cases the lowest-cost option to decarbonise the transport, heating and agriculture sectors.

“Renewable electricity is highly dependent on natural gas. Natural gas acts as a back-up and substitutes for renewable electricity to ensure that Ireland has a sustainable source of energy.”

He noted: “We have seen in the last month, times when the wind contribution to power generation was less than 1%.

“This is the reality, wind and gas are highly complementary. In the future, we can achieve a zero-carbon source of electricity when powered by net zero carbon gas.

GNI’s vision is that, by 2050, half of the gas on Ireland’s network will be renewable gas and hydrogen.

“The other half will be ‘abated gas’ where carbon dioxide has been removed through the carbon capture and storage (CCS) process, preventing emissions from entering the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.”

CCS separates carbon from industrial exhaust and injects it deep below the ground, so it cannot enter the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

According the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it would require drastic and unprecedented cuts in energy consumption to limit global warming rises to 1.5° without CCS.

The EU has indicated that the cost of decarbonising Europe’s power generation will be €1.2 trillion higher without CCS.

Concluding, O’Sullivan said: “CCS is a necessity, not an option,” and added “we are committed to working with Government and policy makers across all sectors, to ensure we maximise the contribution this state-owned asset can make in reducing Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions by one third”.

To find out how GNI’s Vision 2050 sets a clear pathway to a net carbon zero gas system by the year 2050, visit the website.