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Analysis of Energy Consumption in Ireland

Disclaimer: This dissertation has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional dissertation writers. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.


General Introduction

The following chapter will introduce the dissertation topic by means of its intended goals, outline of content within each chapter and the research methodology. The research goals present the author's aims to be achieved, core objectives and hypothesis to test. The chapters shall be briefly described as to their particular topic area. Research methodology will establish the research process, planning, data collection methods utilized and finally mention limitations encountered throughout completing the dissertation.

Research Goals


To investigate is renewable energy the way of the future, the potential of renewable energy sources and to analyse their long-term capability of meeting Ireland's future energy needs.


  1. To consider past and present trends of energy consumption in Ireland.
  2. To investigate the suitability of this technology for Ireland.
  3. To evaluate the environmental advantage of using the technology.
  4. To examine in detail the practical adoption of renewable energy technology in another country.
  5. To compare traditional energy sources against renewable sources.
  6. To examine the financial implications of changing from the traditional energy supply to a more renewable supply.


Renewable energy is a viable option for meeting energy requirements for the future of the Irish energy market.

Outline of Chapters

Chapter 1:

This chapter introduces the dissertation and details the author's core objectives to be researched. The structure of the dissertation is briefly described, which details the key sources of information followed by a short account of the chapters to follow.

Chapter 2:

The dissertation begins with a short first chapter explaining what is known as renewable energy.

Chapter 3:

Talks about potential future energy demands. Energy trends are evaluated to prepare an estimated energy forecast for Ireland's future.

Chapter 4:

Investigates into why a renewable energy future? The chapter deals with the rising demand and price of oil and gas. Also the concerns about climate change and Ireland's commitment to the EU's Directives on the deployment of renewable energy are dealt within the chapter.

Chapter 5:

The chapter reviews the renewable energy options available to Ireland. The options are assessed on the extent to which they could be used in meeting future demands.

Chapter 6:

Examines the Governments present proposal "Renewable Electricity - A 2020 Vision," which is to set up an All-Island Energy Market between the Republic and Northern Ireland. The Chapter evaluates the proposal to secure future energy supply through renewable energy for the whole island.

Chapter 7:

This chapter considers nuclear energy through certain areas which may be beneficial or not to Ireland.

Chapter 8:

This is the final chapter of the dissertation where the author reaches conclusions from the research carried out to date, followed by recommendations and areas for further study.

Research Methodology

Research may be defined as, 'the systematic study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions' (Concise Oxford English Dictionary 2005).

This section outlines the research methods used to prepare this dissertation. The structure of this dissertation presents the findings of research, clearly identified, which was conducted by the author. Also aspects of data collection associated with problems encountered and limitations will be summarized.

Research Process

Preliminary research began during the Author's placement year (year 3 of BSc Construction Economics & Management in Limerick Institute of Technology). As part of the year a dissertation proposal submission was required. An initial investigation on the availability of information was carried out and being satisfied that the information available was sufficient, I decided to continue with the topic. The initial sources primarily included books, Internet, papers and magazines.

Research Planning

For the research process consideration was given to the possible methods of approach to the actual dissertation. To carry out the research effectively and in a detailed manner a research plan and programme was established. This plan consisted of giving sufficient time for the detailed research of material both published and unpublished. From this the author got a detailed understanding of the topic and the exact focus of the dissertation was established along with the content and scope of the various chapters.

After choosing the title, aim, objectives and hypothesis, a detailed plan had to be formulated to meet each objective of the dissertation. This proved vital to the success of the dissertation, given the limited time frame to review material, engender results and complete the dissertation. Due to the amount of publications and information that needed reviewing for inclusion into the dissertation file, reading and analysis was continuously ongoing. All articles of information were scanned generally to assess their suitability and all relevant information marked accordingly. All relevant information, once analysed, was categorized based on its relevance to a given chapter.

Data Collection Methods

In order to test the hypothesis of this dissertation effectively detailed information had to be sought on all aspects of renewable energies and the Irish energy market.

The types of data used for compiling this dissertation came from both primary and secondary sources. Material from both sources was read in detail and any information relevant to any aspect of the dissertation topic was highlighted and noted. For the actual structure of the separate chapters, this information was subdivided into separate files for each proposed chapter.

Primary Sources

The dissertation utilized primary sources, as work contained provided accurate information. The volume of the information was obtained from Government organisations and EU reports. The up to date factor of the reports was its main advantage. Other organisations such as Sustainable Energy Ireland published reports which proved very beneficial. As the dissertation subject is topical at present, there have been many related conferences and the proceedings published. Official Government publications were helpful especially for information relating to the All Island Energy Market. Other official publications from the EU were used to gather information on EU Directives and the Kyoto Protocol. Finally structured interviews were conducted in relation to setting up and operating wind farms as the results offered accurate first hand information. Past dissertations have been utilized but for the purpose of guidance.

Secondary Sources

An in depth documentary review was undertaken by the author, which involved examining various sources of information for factual information. This information was taken from construction journals, textbooks, brochures and magazines. Text books were used only for background information. Magazines and national papers proved helpful in keeping up with new developments affecting the topic, for example the Budget and Government publications. As the dissertation required up to date information on the topic, a large quantity of information was obtained from the Internet.


There were a number of difficulties encountered during the research of this dissertation. The main concern for the author was the realization that new information on the chosen topic was constantly being up dated with new developments. As the dissertation is somewhat based on what may happen in the future, the conclusions and recommendations are based on educated assumptions.

There exists a lack of published work in relation to the All Island Energy Market, as the consultation period is still on going. Contact with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources was made with regard to the topic and all other topics relating to the dissertation. The author was informed that the most up to date information would be available in the Government's Energy White Paper 2007 "Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland" and that information contained within it could not be released until the Government's official launch on the 12th of March 2007. Due to time constraints the author was not able to exploit this source.

Based on the limited amount of information available the author utilized a significant amount of secondary sources. Also research questionnaires had to be abandoned due to a lack of response from organisations. Although certain information available was limited, with continued research and perseverance though all possible avenues it is believed that suitable material was compiled delivering a complete dissertation on the subject matter.


What Is Renewable Energy?


Renewable energy comes from energy sources that are continuously replenished by nature. They are non-fossil energy sources that are not depleted by utilization. The main sources of renewable energy are the wind, the sun (solar energy), water (hydropower, wave and tidal energy) and biomass (wood, biodegradable waste and energy crops).

Renewable energy sources are those which are effectively inexhaustible (such as wind, wave, solar, hydro etc) or which are replenished at or about their rate of consumption (such as managed forests and energy crops and other forms of biomass) (Anon 2005).

What are the Benefits of Renewable energy?

Renewable energy resources are clean sources of energy. They can be harnessed without damaging the environment, unlike using fossil fuels which release carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) and other harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.

  • Increasing the use of renewable energy is therefore a key strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting Ireland's Kyoto commitments.
  • Renewable energy resources will not become exhausted. Unlike finite fossil fuels, renewable energy resources are continuously replenished and will not run out.
  • Renewable energy resources are indigenous resources. Ireland is heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels. We now import around 89% of the fuels we need for energy. By tapping the renewable energy resources with which Ireland is richly endowed, we could reduce this reliance on imports. By increasing our use of renewable resources, we can achieve a more secure and stable energy supply for the long term (Sustainable Energy Ireland a).

Chapter Summary

Renewable energy generally refers to energy derived from non-fossil fuel resources (excluding nuclear). Renewable energy has become more popular in recent times as talks of global warming increase internationally and exhaustion of fossil fuels. Renewable energy will benefit the environment and help reduce our dependency on depleting sources of energy.


Ireland's Potential Energy Needs


To assess the potential of renewable sources sustaining Ireland's energy needs in the future, firstly energy trends have to be evaluated to estimate the future requirements. It is impossible to know for sure what the future will hold but by reviewing different forecasts, a reasonable estimate can be made.

Energy Trends

Energy trends of the past fifteen years will give a good review of Ireland's energy growth. It was within this time that the country experienced significant economic growth which was seen in the energy sector. The amount of energy consumed is shown through the Total Primary Energy Requirement (TPER).

Total Energy Requirement (TER) figures represent the total Irish electricity generation at the plant exported level plus imports, less exports. The TER is the amount of electricity required to meet total final consumption in the Republic of Ireland including an allowance for transmission and distribution losses (Anon 2005).

Figure 3.1 shows the Total Primary Energy Requirement (TPER) of the Republic of Ireland, broken down by fuel type, over the period 1990 to 2000. Estimates for the period 2001 to 2010 are also included.

This figure shows that there was rapidly increasing growth in energy demands in the 90's and in particular, the mid 90's to 2000. It also shows a high dependence on the oil and gas.

Energy Forecasts

The Government document, All-Island Energy Market: Renewable Electricity - A '2020 Vision'; Preliminary Consultation Document, (Anon 2005), forecasts energy demands by "firstly modifying the 2005 - 2011 median TER values so as to account for generation plant 'house load', and then determining the values for 2012 - 2020 at the assumed growth rates of 3% per annum between 2012 and 2015, and of 2% per annum between 2015 and 2020." This can be clearly seen in Table 3.1. These facts are based on the future for the whole island of Ireland, a joint north and south venture of meeting future energy demands and include Northern Ireland which is discussed in Chapter Six.

The above forecast is not alone in believing that there will be a steady growth, although slightly less over a longer period of time. The report (Howley et al 2006) assumes electricity demand to grow significantly. Table 3.2 from the report shows the predicted growth. The prediction assumes the CO2 costs €15/tonne in 2010 and €30/tonne in 2020.

Chapter Summary

The past energy trends showed that there has been a constant rise in energy demand and this is reflected in the forecasts. The two different reports predicted to 2020 and show a similar prediction. It can then be assumed that to 2010 a 3.0 - 4.0% increase can be expected and from 2010 - 2020, a lesser 1.0 - 2.0%. The forecast for the generating fuel is predicted through past trends and present economic development, predicting oil to be eliminated by 2010 and gas to dominate. Although renewables are predicted to increase, early forecasts report they will only have a minor impact.


Why a Renewable Energy Future?


The future of Ireland's energy supply is changing and it can not be stopped but we can adapt. The foremost important issue for the Government is to secure the countries future energy supply. Ireland's geographical location and fuel resources means it is of critical importance that the future energy supply is secured now before it is too late. Ireland is too dependant on import fossil fuels for energy and so we need to become more independent, which renewable energy can provide. While Ireland's imports of fossil fuels for energy still stand at about 85 per cent, much higher than the EU average of 50 per cent, there is a definite shift towards renewables. But there are other factors steering Ireland towards renewable sources, including EU and Kyoto responsibilities.

Oil and Gas Depletion

Oil and gas are a finite resource and there so going to completely run out some day. The demand for gas and in particular oil is increasing. This is mainly due to significant economic growth of China and India. The report Exxon-Mobil's view of the future of oil and gas predicts "demand is expected to rise through the year 2010 at a rate of about 2 per cent per year for oil and 3 per cent per year for gas" (Longwell), as shown in Figure 4.1. This is leading to a rise in price, Figure 4.2, which already is affecting Ireland.

As stated in the EU Green Paper in 2006, "Oil and gas prices are rising. They have nearly doubled in the EU over the past two years, with electricity prices following. This is difficult for consumers. With increasing global demand for fossil fuels, stretched supply chains and increasing dependence on imports, high prices for oil and gas are probably here to stay" (Anon 2006).

Rising oil prices

In its 2001 review BP commented "The world's oil R/P (reserve to production) ratio has fallen modestly since 1990 as world oil production growth has outpaced additions to reserves" (Busby 2002). A chart in the 2001 review shows 1990 as the year when the R/P peak ratio of 44 was passed, reducing to 40 by the end of 2000. At the end of 2002 the R/P ratio had reduced further to 39, to rise to 41 at the end of 2003, dropping back to 40.5 at the end of 2004, but shown at 40.6 at the end of 2005. As production continues to rise and additions to reserves fail to match it, the ratio of oil reserves to production (R/P) will continue to decline and the price of crude oil will rise. The world gas R/P ratio in 2005 was 65.1, compared to 40.6 for oil. At 2005 production rates, gas reserves would provide a source of energy for a further 24 years after oil exhaustion.

But when oil supplies starts to run out, more gas will be used as a substitute, hence increasing gas depletion. So if oil production peak is predicted at 2010, gas production peak should follow bout the year 2020.

The problem starts to become apparent when you realise the decline of oil discovery, as shown in Figure 4.3. The gap between discovery and consumption is widening and this will eventually lead to oil production peaking. Chevron, one of the world's largest oil companies, admits to the imminent peak and decline of oil. An Oil production peak before or by 2010 seems now to be generally accepted. The not so distant future of Ireland's energy market will then have to contend without oil.

The oil market is global where the gas market is regional and this is where Ireland could really suffer in the long term. It is predicted that gas will outlast oil but gas has to be piped and Ireland's geographical location causes problems. The discovery of the Corrib gas field "is potentially very important as it offers temporary relief from increasingly unreliable supplies of gas from the United Kingdom and Europe," says Colin Campbell, petroleum geologist (Campbell). In the near future with oil demand rising pushing up prices and in the distant future oil not been available, we must look to renewables now. The Corrib gas field is small and might get ten or more years out of it at the current rate of consumption but the Government should use this opportunity to draw on the gas to help support renewable energy.

The Environment and EU Directive

Ireland's main source of energy is fossil fuels which produce vast quantities of CO2, add to climate change and which the EU intend to reduce. The emissions that are produced from burning fossil fuels are becoming more serious every year and a much discussed topic at national and international level.

Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol

Fossil fuels constitute a significant repository of carbon buried deep under the ground. Burning them results in the conversion of this carbon to carbon dioxide, which is then released into the atmosphere. This results in an "increase in the Earth's levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which enhances the greenhouse effect and contributes to global warming" (Wikipedia).

As was seen in Figure 4.4, fossil fuels are a major electricity fuel for Ireland. Fossil fuels, particularly coal, contain a dilute radioactive material which is released into the environment leading to low levels of radioactive contamination.

"Within the EU burden sharing agreement to meet its obligation under the Kyoto Protocol, Ireland must stabilise its Greenhouse gas emissions at 13% above 1990 levels within the period 2008 to 2012" (Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources 1998).

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest Assessment Report was released on the 2nd of February 2007 in Paris. The report was produced by some 600 authors from 40 countries. According to the IPCC, the warming of the world is unequivocal, and that humans are very likely (higher than 90% likelihood) behind the warming. The key conclusions were:

  • Possible temperature rise between 1.1C and 6.4C by 2100
  • Sea level most likely to rise by 18-59cm (7in-23in)
  • Artic summer sea ice disappears in second half of century
  • Increase in heatwaves very likely
  • Increase in tropical storm intensity likely

Considering overall greenhouse gas emissions, energy related CO2 emissions accounted for 51% in 1990 compared to a projected 66% in 2010 if we continue in the same direction. Renewable energy would dramatically reduce Ireland's CO2 emissions by replacing fossil fuels. This will take time, so if want to have any chance of meeting the requirements, we have to act now.

EU Directive

The use of renewable energy has a legislative basis in the EU under Directive (2001/77/EC). The Directive asserts the European Countries need to promote renewables to contribute to:

'…environmental protection and sustainable development. In addition this can also create local employment, have a positive impact on social cohesion, contribute to security of supply and make it possible to meet Kyoto targets more quickly'(Anon 2005).

The directive forces Ireland to have an output of renewable powered electricity to 13.2% of total electricity consumed in Ireland by 2010. But the Government is hoping to have it up to 15% by 2010 through the Renewable energy Feed In Tariff (ReFIT) programme. The new Renewable energy Feed in Tariff (ReFIT) programme replaces the Government's previous support mechanism, the Alternative Energy Requirement (AER) programme and provides financial support of €119m to renewable energy projects over a fifteen year period

The ReFIT programme will support the construction of an initial target of at least 400 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy powered electricity generating plants. Its main aim is to increase the contribution of renewable energy sources to electricity production. The ReFIT programme will help make renewable energy competitive and is a move closer to reaching the Kyoto Protocol and the EU directive. Failure to meet the Kyoto Protocol and EU Directive (2001/77/EC) will have serious financial implications.

On April 4th 2006 the European Commission launched legal proceedings against Ireland, for failing to meet the deadline of October 2003 for taking the necessary measures to transpose Community legislation on renewable electricity into national law. Ireland is now under pressure to act on renewable energy.

Future Policies

EU Leaders decided on Friday 9th of March 2007 to slash greenhouse gas emissions, which included a binding target for renewable sources to make up a fifth of EU energy use by 2020. The leaders committed to a target of reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 and offered to go to 30 per cent if major nations such as the United States, Russia, China and India follow suit. According to a draft agreement, the EU will aim to go even further in the future, with cuts of 60 to 80 per cent by 2050.

Reports of drastic future climate change in the wake of the IPCC's recent assessment, talk of a post Kyoto agreement is been debated. The recent EU summit outcome of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent will form the basis of the EU's position in international talks to replace the U.N. Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Whatever it may be called, it will aim to severely reduce Greenhouse Gases to coincide with Global Warming reports. Either way it will mean a serious change for Governments and society.

Chapter Summary

The demand for gas and in particular oil is increasing largely due to the economic growth of China and India. The reserves at the moment show gas will outlast oil. Oil production is predicted to peak around 2010 but as oil resources decrease, demand for gas will increase to make up the slack which will result in gas production peaking sooner rather than later. The large growth in demand at present is increasing prices and with talk of oil production peaking and the politically unstable situation in the Middle East, prices look set to continue escalating. Renewable energy can help Ireland reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Ireland's main energy source, fossil fuels, is seriously damaging the environment and the main cause of Global Warming. The Kyoto Protocol requires Ireland to reduce its CO2 emissions. Under EU legislation Ireland must increase the use of renewable energy to 13.2% of all electricity produced but the Government are aiming for 15% with the announcement of the ReFIT programme. The programme will help meet Kyoto and EU obligations. Recent announcement from the EU requires 20% of the EU's electricity generation mix be from renewable sources by 2020. This ambitious target will require serious consideration from the Government.


The Renewable Energy Options for the Future


To meet the future energy demands, the Government will have to put a lot more work into developing renewable sources of energy. The positive from this, is Ireland has vast potential for renewable energy production, especially wind. Although the Government are starting to take more notice of renewable energy technology. Within 'Budget 2007' Brian Cowan stated "scheme of tax relief in place in the form of a deduction from a company's profits for corporate investment in renewable energy products in the solar, wind, hydro or biomass technology categories, shall be continued for a further five years, subject to EU approval" (Cowan 2006). But when considering renewable energy options, it is important to realistically assess their full potential. The present renewable energy sources should be looked at in a view of their output and efficiency, then evaluate their future part in securing the country's energy supply.

Wind Power

Wind power is one of the most mature renewable energy technologies to date and currently has a good record of reliability and availability. The wind resources in Ireland are among the best in the EU due to the strength of the Atlantic winds. "A wind turbine in Ireland will deliver twice as much power as the same turbine in Germany. We are the envy of Europe because of our wind speeds" (Seanad Éireann 2005).

Wind energy has seen major advances in Ireland recently, especially in the last four years. Wind energy now has the largest installed capacity of all renewable energy technologies in Ireland (Figure 5.1). As per up to date statistics from EirGrid, there is currently a total of 744 MW worth of wind power connected to the main grid and an additional 547.3 MW worth of energy from contracted wind farms currently in production to be connected at various stages in the future. (See Appendix C and Appendix D)

Renewable Connections

Kinetic energy in airflows is used to run wind turbines; some are capable of producing 5 MW of power, but the most cost effective are currently 500 kW - 1.5 MW. Conventional investment costs are about €1,100 per kW installed. Wind energy has been growing significantly over recent years and following the trend, wind power will keep going in the near future, Figure 5.2.

Wind Generation since 1992 to 2007

Onshore Wind

Onshore wind in Ireland is mainly concentrated on the west coast due to strong winds from the Atlantic. Wind-speed maps help decide on the locations by showing the wind potential of certain areas but sites close to the western sea shore is generally the best region, as with Tursillagh Wind Farm. (Example of Analysis of Wind Potential - See Appendix E)

Turbines at Tursillagh

Winds in an area are often monitored for a year and detailed maps constructed prior to wind generators being installed. Coastlines tend to be the windiest sites for turbines, because a primary source of wind is convection from the differential heating and cooling of land and sea. The erection of a wind farm onshore is becoming straight forward with companies having gained much experience and knowledge. Ireland has had well developed onshore wind energy for many years and has the knowledge to develop bigger wind farms to help meet the countries energy demand.

Offshore Wind

The offshore electricity production in Ireland is minimal but has made a good start. Arklow Offshore Wind Power Plant is the world's first offshore project to deploy giant wind turbines in excess of 3megawatts and is Ireland's only offshore wind project. But already is showing great prospect, showing excellent reliability and availability, areas where wind power is mainly criticised. The site was chosen as tests proved to be one of the windiest areas in Europe.

Offshore turbines cause less aesthetic controversy as usually can not be seen from the shore. It offers fewer obstacles and stronger winds but is also more inaccessible and the conditions are harsh, corrosive and can increase the costs of maintenance. Unlike with onshore wind farms, planning is not an issue. The biggest obstacle at present is the significant capital cost even compared to onshore wind. Ireland's offshore potential is an untapped resource and must be harnessed to become a serious contributor to the Irish electricity mix. Offshore wind power generation should be recognised for what it is; Ireland's best option for meeting present renewable energy and CO2 targets.

Planning for the Future

To promote wind as one of the major sources of electricity in the future, it can be beneficial to look at a similar EU country with a successful wind market, for example Denmark. The ESB system is comparable in size to the west Denmark Eltra system.

"The Transmission System Operator (TSO) in Ireland, ESB National Grid (ESB NG), has asked for a report, explaining the management of the western Danish system Eltra with a focus on handling of wind production" (Hilger 2004).

This shows the level of interest in the Danish system for wind. The ESB has spotted the potential of assessing Denmark's approach to wind for our own future development. Denmark has only modest wind speeds, compared to Ireland's impressive wind energy potential. As can be seen in the Case Study (Appendix F), the key to Denmark's wind power success is the support from the interconnectors to other EU countries. Wind's intermittence problem is compensated with bought in electricity from the Nordic power pool at the going rate.

The major interest in Denmark's Eltra system for the future will come from Denmark's offshore development, in particular the Horns Rev Wind Park. The Horns Rev Wind Park is a show case of Danish initiative in the large scale promotion of renewable energy. Horns Rev is the largest offshore wind farm in the world, producing two per cent of Denmark's total energy consumption. Much can be learned from Horns Rev in planning the future of wind power generation in Ireland. The offshore turbines produce 150 per cent more electricity than land based turbines. Also Denmark's offshore areas are restricted but the Irish situation is a decentralised approach where the pick of areas is open for private initiative. The Horns Rev project was a result of fourteen years of research and initiated by the Danish Government which was the main factor for its commencement. The turbines used (Vestas V80) which can adapt the output of the turbine to suit the parameters of any electricity grid. Although a lot of planning and research went into Horns Rev, construction only took six months which was run through the summer months for improved weather conditions. And finally so successful was Horns Rev, an additional wind farm (Horns Rev 2) is to be built northeast of the existing farm. The new offshore wind farm and the landing facilities will be commissioned in May 2009. (See Appendix F, Case Study)

Constraints of Wind Power

To properly investigate whether wind can provide for the future, the obstacles must be reviewed. Wind farms or parks have many turbines and each one extracts energy from the wind, so it is important to space them well apart. This leads to the problem of space for wind farms on-shore. But this would not become a major problem in the short term but in the long-term, offshore is the obvious solution.

Integration into the main power system has always caused problems. Connection to the ESB grid is increasingly becoming a major issue as wind projects compete for access to the network. The capability of the Distribution and Transmission network to connect wind energy onto the system is limited in most places, particularly in the more outlying regions of Ireland, where the wind resource is often the best. But connection to the grid is not the only problem, managing the connected wind power has been an important obstacle for the ESB and EirGrid to overcome, the main factor being wind generation forecasting. ESB National Grid currently uses the More Care Forecasting tool, for the purpose of forecasting the wind generation. The tool has being developed to:

  • Base forecasts on 21 wind farms situated around the country
  • Use regional multipliers to calculate the wind generation for the total installed capacity
  • Use a medium range weather forecasts, to extend the wind generation forecasts from 2 days to 5 days
  • Identify risk of high speed shut-down

However the future of wind generation forecasting could be in the ANEMOS Project. It is one of the largest funded renewable generation projects which consist of 23 partners, including EirGrid. The aims of the project include accurate short-term forecast of wind farms production up to two days in advance, with the focus on complex terrain, off-shore wind farms and extreme weather conditions. The main aim of ANEMOS is to calculate the level of confidence that a user can have in a wind prediction forecast. However, further research is required before the system can be implemented.

Although more accurate forecasting can somewhat help combat the major problem of intermittence associated with wind power generation, it does not solve the problem. But the way to solve this dilemma is to develop storage solutions, so when the wind is strong the power can be stored, thus be used when wind levels are low.

Storage Solutions: Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (PHES)

Wind, as an intermittent energy source, poses challenges for system operators. PHES is the most established and widespread of the energy storage options available at present. Currently worldwide over 90GW of pumped storage is in operation with storage capacity up to 15GW. In order to store electricity, water is pumped from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir. The electricity has thus been converted to potential energy. In order to release this energy as required, water from the upper reservoir is passed through a hydroelectric turbine to generate electricity. The round-trip efficiency of such a system is generally in the order of 70-80%. PHES can be used to smooth the power output from a wind farm and hence improve the reliability of the wind farm in the eyes of the system operator. Reliability can be improved in the following areas:

  • Dispatchability
  • Variability
  • Predictability

As with the trend of renewable energy technologies, PHES requires a large up front capital investment, which is a major factor when combined with the initial expense of the wind farm.

Setting Up and Operating a Wind Farm - Interviews

Interviews were conducted with owners of wind farms to get a first hand view of the setting up and operating of a wind farm in Ireland. The following is a list of the main facts:

  • A wind speed analysis was used to locate the most suitable locality for the wind turbines.
  • The turbines only need a 4m/s wind to turn and produce.
  • The most breakdowns occur within six months of installation but with little trouble after that.
  • The turbines are serviced every six months.
  • The turbines produce no noise unless standing next to it.
  • The cost of setting up a wind farm can be calculated at €1,000,000 per MW installed. Although this price has now risen significantly in the last year, 2006 - 2007, due to demand for wind turbines, oil prices, steel prices and grid price increases.
  • The greatest problem with setting up a wind farm is the length of time from deciding to build to actually operating the wind farm. The main delay the connection to the national grid.
  • Planning permission was a major issue and then others with planning permission are now starting to run out.
  • Turbine availability becoming a problem due to demand in the last year, 2006 - 2007.
  • Irish banks are making it easier to finance wind farms as they are becoming more familiar with the process.

Existing and committed wind farms, as of the 1st of September 2006

Biomass is an organic material with energy content that allows conversion to electricity and heat. It is a carbon neutral so when used for energy, no net carbon dioxide is released as it consumed carbon dioxide as a growing plant. While wind and wave may be touted as the future of sustainable energy, biofuels such as wood will also have a big part to play. Bio-energy is produced from crops, trees, sawdust, by-products such as tallow, farm wastes and waste vegetable oil. These can be converted to produce electricity. It is often suggested that biomass would be the replacement for fossil fuels. This is a reasonable assumption but at present, Ireland has along way to go.

"Bioenergy produces both heat and power and has over twice the MW energy output of wind. It is my strong belief that we have created a renewable energy model that other industries can follow to help deliver tomorrow's energy in a sustainable way" commented Kieran Calnan, SWS Chief Executive (SWS Environmental Services).

The biomass CHP plant Grainger Sawmills, Co. Cork, is a major step forward in the promotion of Biomass Technology. The plant operates generating green energy from wood byproducts such as bark, peelings, sawdust and forest thinnings. The CHP plant will produce over 2MW of green electricity. CHP could be the answer to meeting future energy demand in the near future as construction times are lower than centralised power plants.

Sustainable Energy Ireland's Biomass Resource Pack states "CHP installations can typically convert up to 90% of the energy in the fuel into electrical power and useful heat. This compares with conventional power generation, which has a delivered energy efficiency of only around 40%" (Sustainable Energy Ireland b).

Grainger's Sawmill CHP Plant

Biomass is a mature technology in the EU and has gained a major share of the EU produced energy, as shown in Figure 5.4. It shows Ireland's lack of progress in the area in comparison. But another way to examine it is the potential for Biomass. The future of Biomass has been helped by the Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff (REFIT) Programme, which provides a significantly higher biomass feed-in price for biomass electricity in the REFIT programme (€72 per megawatt hour compared to €57/MWh for wind-powered plants) and a CHP Grants programme will be launched shortly, to provide grants for gas-fired as well as biomass-fed CHP.

In the 'Budget 2007' energy crops got much needed boost with the introduction of grants for willow and miscanthus. There will be a national top-up of €80 per hectare, in addition to the existing EU premium of €45 per hectare for energy crops. Also there will be grant aid for the purchase ofspecialised harvesting machinery for energy crops. The total cost of these three measures will rise to €6 million in 2009. Although the Government are starting to catch up with the rest of the EU if they take the initiative to review countries like Sweden and Finland, countries which have gone through the transition to large scale biomass successfully, Ireland could be a step closer to a sustainable country (Irish Bio-Energy Association).

Tidal and Wave Power

The development of wave and tidal power is still at the research stage commercially so will not be an option for mass energy production in the short term, although options are available at present. These renewable energy sources have the greatest potential in Ireland than any where in Europe matched only by the north-west coast of America on a global scale. On the 16th February 2007, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Mr. Noel Dempsey T.D. launched Sea Change - A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland (2007-2013). It is hoped that Ireland would be generating 100 MW from ocean energy, rising to almost 400 MW by 2025. It is the aim of the strategy that Ireland will be recognised as a Centre of Excellence in Renewable Ocean Energy Research (Marine Institute 2007).

Wave Power

Ocean waves contain large amounts of energy stored in the velocity of the water. Wave power is determined by wave height, wave speed, wave length and water density. The main obstacle involved with the technology is constructing devices which can survive storm damage and corrosion. Ireland's large wave resource, as shown in Figure 5.5, is due to the direction of the prevailing winds across the Atlantic. Ireland already has a wave energy device prototype in the form of 'Wavebob' which was deployed in Galway Bay in 2006. The device is currently undergoing a six month sea trial. It is still at research and testing level, and will be many years before it will be a viable option for mass energy production. Wavebob Ltd commented "To suggest that 6MW will be installed by 2020 has to be nonsense or else must refer to demonstration units, - the figure will be either zero or of the order of several hundred or over 1,000MWe" (Wavebob Ltd 2005). There is a need to advance this technology to commercial operation but the device shows great initiative in the Irish energy market. But outside of Ireland advancements have already begun with the development of the Pelamis Wave Energy Converter, which is already at a commercial level.

Pelamis Wave Energy Converter

The Pelamis was developed in Scotland by Ocean Power Delivery Ltd. The first wave farm is planned to begin shortly off the coast of Portugal, taking advantage of the strong wave resource of the Atlantic. The Pelamis is a semi-submerged, articulated structure composed of cylindrical sections linked by hinged joints. The wave-induced motion of these joints is resisted by hydraulic rams, which pump high-pressure oil through hydraulic motors via smoothing accumulators. The hydraulic motors drive electrical generators to produce electricity. Power from all the joints is fed down a single umbilical cable to a junction on the sea bed. Several devices can be connected together and linked to shore through a single seabed cable (Ocean Power Delivery Ltd).

Pelamis Wave Energy Converter works by resisting wave motion via hydraulics connected to moving joints.

The technology is as result of six years of extensive research and testing. The Pelamis is constructed on shore so with minimum of installation work required off shore. The key feature of the Pelamis is it's survivability from extreme loads in waves including dragging and slamming. Waves produce a widely variable power input for a single hinged joint. The Pelamis stores energy in hydraulic accumulators to even out this unsteady input and provide a smooth flow of fluid to the variable displacement drive motor, and a steady power output from the machine's generators. For a 150m long and 3.5m diameter Pelamis, there is an expected annual energy output of 2.7GWh. The use of the Pelamis is growing as, announced in February 2007, the technology will form the UK's first wave farm with four Pelamis devices generating a total of 3 MW at Orkney, Scotland.

The Pelamis is fast becoming the most proven wave technology but its use in Ireland will depend a great deal on the desire to have Ireland's wave energy devices containing the made in Ireland stamp. But the future of wave energy certainly looks bright.

Tidal Power

Tides are created by the gravitational attraction of the moon and sun acting upon the oceans. As with wind power, selection of location is critical for a tidal power generator. Tidal power schemes produce power for 6 to 12 hours in every 24 as it is based on the period of rotation of the earth. This causes problems for the electric power transmission grid, as capacity with short starting and stopping times will have to be available to alternate power production with the tidal power scheme. But has an advantage over wind power, as tidal power is completely predictable and so is easier to accommodate on the national grid. A tidal power scheme is a long-term source of electricity. The technology has a very high capital cost but a low running cost. This is a main factor contributing to reluctance from investors. Although much of the tidal technologies are still in research, Irish based company OpenHydro have developed one of the first tidal technologies in the world to reach the stage of permanent deployment at sea, with the Open-Centre Turbine (Wikipedia b).

Open-Centre Turbine

The turbine contains blade tips which are retained within the outer housing which clearly defines the moving component and the turbine is designed to generate energy at a slow rotational speed. The device is deployed at depth and out of sight and the design avoids the needs for oils, grease or other lubricating fluids (OpenHydro)

Sea-bed mounted Open-Centre Turbine

OpenHydro has completed the first tidal turbine installation at European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney as of January 2007. The project which was supported by Sustainable Energy Ireland, will be the UK and Ireland's first grid connected tidal turbine. They also have installed turbines for energy production in Canada. OpenHydro's commercial deployments will be mounted on the seabed where no part of the structure will be visible from the surface and will be deep enough not to interfere with shipping traffic.

OpenHydro's turbine at European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, Scotland.

OpenHydro estimate that the current global market is worth over €10 billion per year. The Open-Centre Turbine's low manufacture and maintenance cost creates a powerful case for investment. Comparing power output, due to the density of water, a relatively small turbine can produce the same power as a much larger wind turbine. But there is a need for the Government intervention for promotion of the technology through grants and incentives, as it is the whole country that will benefit in the long term. We need to become the research leaders in wave and tidal and can not wait for other countries, like with wind and biomass, as Ireland will benefit more than most.

Chapter Summary

Both wind and biomass are now mature technologies and capable of competing against fossil fuels. Energy crops have been made more appealing with the announcement of grants in the 'Budget 2007'. Wave and tidal technologies are in their infancy at commercial level and needs the Government to promote further research. The Pelamis Wave Energy Converter has brought wave power technology from a possibility to an actual option and with tidal power technology catching up; the Irish coastline should become a major contributor to the countries total energy mix.

Wind power looks set to further strengthen its position as leading renewable energy supplier with 547 MW of output in production. The cost of wind generated electricity is falling with fuel costs of zero and dropping maintenance costs with advancements in wind turbine technology. A more recent problem has been the demand for wind power technology in Ireland leading to delays in future developments. Also a delay in connection to the National Grid requires further research.

The Denmark Eltra system has much in common with the Irish energy system due to their size. It will be beneficial for Ireland to assess their policies and system designs in regard to wind energy production. The Horns Rev offshore wind farm is an excellent blueprint to follow for a major Irish offshore wind farm, with the probability of even greater success than Denmark due to stronger wind speeds.

Wind produces most renewable energy in Ireland and can go a lot further but needs to overcome its major downfalls, variable output. A more advanced forecasting system will help manage wind power on the system. The slack for now can be picked up by support from bio-energy but for a sustainable future, some means of storage is required. One possible solution could be Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (PHES). PHES is well established internationally and can potentially store up to 15GW of energy. PHES can make wind energy more appealing to system operators. All of the renewable energy options have one feature in common; they all have high up front capital costs. This has always been a major problem for the technologies and so need to rely on the Government for promotion in the future as they can not compete with fossil fuels at present.


All-Island Energy Supply - A "2020 Vision"


Angela Smith MP, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Northern Ireland and Noel Dempsey T.D., Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Republic of Ireland have created a process for development of a shared vision of how the future energy needs of Northern Ireland and the Republic can be best met in a sustainable way. This produced the proposal of an All-island Energy Market through renewable energy, to secure energy supply for the whole island.

The 2020 Vision Target

The 2020 Vision identifies significant renewable energy resource potential for electricity generation. The Framework for the All-island Energy Market states that it should, "…provide for competitive, sustainable and reliable markets in electricity and natural gas on the island of Ireland at the minimum cost necessary." The framework also states that, "the All-island Energy Market should be capable of meeting the increasing energy requirements of the island in ways that are compatible with national and EU sustainable energy policies and targets. Policies should be developed that encourage and facilitate greater contributions from renewables, CHP and energy efficiency" (Anon 2005).

Renewable Energy Sources Potential vs. Current Capacity (RoI and NI).

One of the main objectives of the All-Island Energy Market is to meet the energy requirements for the island of Ireland, '…in an environmentally and economically sustainable way having regard for forecast economic growth and security of supply objectives' (Anon 2005).

EirGrid is the current market operator in the Republic of Ireland under the All Island Project, EirGrid and the System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI) will establish, on a joint basis, the Single Market Operator (SMO). EirGrid and SONI, through the Single Market Operator, will provide the essential infrastructure required for the operation of the AIME - the All Island Market for Electricity. The SMO's core services will include spot market trade execution, settlement and clearing, and the provision of a range of market information. The market is scheduled to go live on November 1st, 2007.

Security of Supply

Secure and reliable energy is a key priority for the Government and is recognised in the All-Island Energy Supply. The EU White Paper on Renewable Energy (COM (97) 599) acknowledges the important role of renewable energy in responding to security of supply and this theme is again reiterated in the EU Green Paper on Security of Energy Supply (COM (2000) 769): "Supply policy needs to consider the immediate and longer-term availability of energy products at a price which is affordable to all consumers (domestic and industrial), while respecting environmental requirements and the needs for sustainability" (Anon 2006).

The fact that both North and South of Ireland depend heavily on imported fuel, 99.8% of TPER in the North and 85% of TPER in the South, the success of the 2020 Vision is vital.

The Government realises that connection with Northern Ireland is not the only action for securing supply. Minister Noel Dempsey commented, "Enhanced electricity interconnection with Northern Ireland and the development of a new electricity interconnector with Britain are also key to security of supply for the future." I expect these critical infrastructure projects to be completed no later than 2012, and sooner if possible" (Dempsey 2006).

The strengthening of Ireland's connection to the North also strengthens our connection to the UK and EU market. Northern Ireland is connected to the UK market through 500MW HVDC undersea double pole interconnector cable at Moyle, County Antrim. To further secure Ireland electricity supply, a 500 MW east-west high voltage DC interconnector is to be constructed between Ireland and Wales. The target completion date of 2012 has been set and the interconnector is be owned by EirGrid, the independent electricity Transmission System Operator (TSO) in Ireland. These connections to the UK market will allow Ireland to trade electricity when necessary, depending on the availability of spare capacity from Britain.

Sustainable, Competitive and Diverse Energy Sources

If Ireland's energy supply continues in the manner at present, growth in gas-fired electricity generation would see our gas dependency grow to over 70% by 2020. This would leave the country extremely vulnerable. The renewable options have been assessed for the 2020 vision by their potential to supply energy for the future, Table 6.1.

AIME (All Island Market for Electricity) will provide for a competitive, sustainable and reliable market at the minimum cost necessary. Customers, irrespective of where they live, will be free to source their energy needs from suppliers and service providers anywhere on the island. Generators and suppliers of electricity on the island will be able to trade via AIME on a daily basis regardless of their location. Trading in the AIME be will subject to market rules, procedures, terms and conditions set out by the Trading and Settlement Code, as developed by the regulators.

Challenges to a 2020 Vision

The All-Island Energy Market is a big step and so with it comes problems to overcome. The electricity network operators have to adapt their networks to incorporate increasing amounts of small, largely embedded, low capacity factor, variable, non-dispatchable, intermittent generation, connecting to the network in an uncoordinated fashion and often making use of induction generators or electronic power conversion. The interconnection to other networks are limited both North and South. The ESB Independent Energy commented on the problems they will face, "The difficulties of renewable energy projects, especially wind projects, in getting connections to the grids in both jurisdictions has led to a large backlog of projects…," "To commit to a long term RES-E policy then the grid infrastructure problems will have to be addressed in conjunction to allow for its implementation" (Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources 2004).

The availability of finance could slow down the change to renewable energies. Appropriate incentives for renewable energy will have to be introduced by the Government if renewable energy wants to be competitive with the current fossil fuel energies.

Chapter Summary

In conjunction with interconnection to Northern Ireland, the All-island Energy Market is the logical first step towards creating a regional market between the island of Ireland and Britain. This is the Government's clear long-term goal. It is fully aligned with the EU emphasis on physical interconnection as a crucial component of a fully developed single EU energy market. This should be further strengthened with the 2012 completion of the Ireland to Wales interconnector.

The Government's 2020 Vision will substantially promote renewable energies in a move to meet future energy demands and create a more sustainable Ireland. The endeavour will also create more of a competitive energy market which should lead to lowering of electricity prices.


Nuclear Energy - If all else Fails!


If future estimates are correct by the year 2020, fossil fuels will be significantly depleted and Ireland's vulnerability will be truly exposed. So if the Government fail to implement proper energy regulations and renewable energy can not sustain the countries energy demand, will nuclear power be a viable option. The State agency, Forfás, has warned "Ireland may have to develop a nuclear power station to supply its electricity needs" (RTE News 2006). Nuclear energy is a well known energy source at present but mainly for negative reasons. On the 01/10/2006 the Government ruled out the use of nuclear energy on this island in the future. The Government said that nuclear energy is not efficient and we should focus on cleaner forms of power instead. That been said nuclear energy is the greenest energy on the planet in regards to CO2 admissions.

Fuel Resources

Uranium used in the production of nuclear energy, is a common element, occurring almost everywhere on land and in the oceans. It is about as common as tin, and 500 times more common than gold. Most types of rocks and soils contain uranium, although often in low concentrations.

When considering the price of nuclear power, it helps to compare it to other sources of energy. If the worldwide price of uranium doubled it would only result in nuclear power increasing by 5%. On the other hand, if the price of natural gas and coal doubled, gas power would increase about 60% and coal power would increase about 30%. This shows a stable price for nuclear energy production.

Proposed fusion reactors assume the use of deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen, as fuel and in most current designs also lithium. Assuming a fusion energy output equal to the current global output and that this does not increase in the future, then the known current lithium reserves would last 3,000 years, lithium from sea water would last 60 million years, and a more complicated fusion process using only deuterium from sea water would have fuel for 150 billion years. For comparison, the Sun has an estimated remaining life of 5 billion years. This is where the arguments for nuclear energy as a renewable energy source originate. But it is important to know it is not as straight forward as that. Nuclear fuel is broken up into different grades. Presently only Canada has reserves of high grade ore. Processing of the low ore grades there is a yield loss and larger energy inputs, leading to a negative energy gain in the overall nuclear fuel cycle (Wikipedia c).

Nuclear Waste

The spent fuel produced from nuclear power is a solid waste. It is extremely radioactive and needs to be handled with some care. However the spent fuel becomes much less radioactive over time.

The waste has to be safely stored and disposed, which is not only a difficult challenge but also expensive. Because of potential harm from radiation, spent nuclear fuel must be stored in shielded basins of water, or in dry storage vaults or dry cask storage until its radioactivity decreases naturally ("decays") to safe levels. This can take days or thousands of years, depending on the type of fuel (Wikipedia c).

Nuclear Economics

The costs involved with nuclear energy can often seem excessive when compared to other sources of energy. The fact is that it is the only power source that factors the estimated costs for waste containment and plant decommissioning into its overall cost. The present fossil fuel plants do not factor in these costs. Some renewable energy technologies may even seem less attractive compared in this way. It would take roughly 1,000 windmills to produce the energy of one nuclear plant and nuclear produces more reliable baseloads.

The Environment and Safety

The production of nuclear energy does not directly produce pollutants associated with the combustion of fossil fuel. As so does not directly contribute to Global Warming and has led to calls for its use as a means of reducing greenhouse gases.

Although it is not completely true that nuclear energy does not emit CO2. Carbon dioxide is released in every component of the nuclear fuel cycle except the actual fission in the reactor. Fossil fuels are involved in the mining, milling, conversion and enrichment of the ore, in the handling of the mill tailings, in the fuel preparation, in the construction of the station and in its de-commissioning and demolition, in the handling of the spent waste, in its processing and vitrification and in digging the hole in rock for its deposition (Busby 2005).

The amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the fuel cycle depends on the ore grade, the lower the grade the more energy is consumed in the fuel processing. At ore grades below 0.01% for 'soft' ores and 0.02% for 'hard' ores more CO2 than an equivalent gas-fired station is released and more energy is absorbed in the cycle that is gained in it. Ores of a grade approaching the "crossover" point, risk going into negative energy gain. The arguments continue on nuclear powers influence in combating Climate Change and will only intensify with the EU announcement of further decreases in CO2 emissions. French President Jacques Chirac insisted at his last formal EU summit that the bloc recognise that nuclear power, which provides 70 per cent of France's electricity, must also play a role in Europe's drive to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This would suggest that nuclear power would have to be categorised under renewable energy in the EU. Although presently there is no indication that this may happen, but if the EU approved nuclear powers use against Climate Change, Ireland may have to seriously weigh up its options.

The use of nuclear power is controversial because of the problem of storing radioactive waste. About one third of the cost of a typical reactor is due to safety systems and structures. In fact, and despite Chernobyl, the safety record of nuclear power is better than for any other major industrial technology. And it is improving with newer reactors.

To turn the clock back a few years in Ireland, the debate raged on not only about nuclear power on Irish soil but also about Sellafield in Britain. Turning to the present and the current debate is fear of Global Warming. The question now and for the future is if renewable energy does not prove to be reliable, what is society more worried of, Global Warming or Nuclear Power?

Nuclear Energy in the EU

Nuclear energy is widely used in the EU with some of the 'greenest' countries with many plants:


Nuclear energy supplies about 45% of Sweden's total electricity production from ten nuclear power reactors.

Swedish Sources of Electricity

Six reactors entered commercial service in the 1970s and six in the 1980s. One closed in 1999 and another in May 2005. The reactors are at four sites around the southern coast.

Sweden's Operating Nuclear Power Reactors

In Sweden in the 1970's the Centre Party started the anti-nuclear debate to phase out nuclear power. But in 2005 the party reversed its opinion, declaring that climate change is more important now than nuclear decommissioning, which was similar to the overwhelming majority of public opinion (83% support for maintaining or increasing nuclear power).

Sweden has its nuclear waste management well in hand. A dedicated ship moves the wastes from power plants to repositories. Nuclear generators are responsible for the costs of managing and disposing of spent fuel, and must provide for those costs as they go. Sweden is also part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapons state.

Chapter Summary

Forfás, which adv

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