Recent months have shown the extent to which we take for granted our constant flow of energy. The events in Ukraine, the shift away from Russian gas in Europe and the rising number of amber alerts on the island of Ireland and Great Britain show that our security of affordable energy is in question.
As is often the case with energy policy, the solutions to shore up the security of supply are not straightforward or unilateral. The overarching policy goal is however to create a blended portfolio of renewable energy that can not only sustain Ireland’s thirst for electricity but to generate enough to become a net exporter.
The prevailing logic is that Ireland has a unique opportunity to harness energy from indigenous renewable resources with an emphasis on offshore wind as well as solar power to put Ireland on a more sustainable path and achieve it climate goals.
The Irish Government is clear in its commitment. By 2030, the government is targeting 70% renewable electricity generation, a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions, and a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency.
The transition period during the move away from fossil fuels to renewables is arguably the hardest part of this equation. What energy levers will the Government and its energy stakeholders pull on to deliver enough power to sate an energy hungry and growing economy? In the context of the intensifying climate crisis, it must strike a correct balance which supports a just transition away from fossil fuels. An interesting case exists in the potential use of liquified natural gas (LNG).
LNG is historically very unpopular due to its association with fracking. Fracked gas is natural gas that is produced by forcing apart rock seams deep underground by pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure. Its use is banned onshore in Irish legislation since 2017 due to the environmental risk it poses. That said, the policy on unfracked LNG is unclear at best.
The Programme for Government states that as Ireland moves towards carbon neutrality, it does not make sense to develop LNG projects importing fracked gas, that it does not support the importation of fracked gas, and it is committed to developing a policy statement to establish that approach. This mentions nothing about the potential use of unfracked LNG as a transition fuel.
Government may be near to showing its hand in this regard. A comprehensive review of the security of energy supply of Ireland’s electricity and natural gas system is currently being undertaken by the Department of the Environment, Climate & Communications, which is scheduled for publication in the coming months. All LNG infrastructure is on pause pending the outcome of this review, which the Green Party’s Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, will present to Government.
While not the sole voice of opposition to new LNG infrastructure in Ireland, the Green Party historically strongly oppose its use. But when you delve closer into the rhetoric, you can see that their opposition appears to be primarily against the use of fracked gas, not against LNG as a technology.
And this policy stance has never come up against a scenario of conflict in Ukraine affecting energy supplies across Europe, as well as unprecedented pressure on Ireland’s energy infrastructure.