Ireland will miss renewable energy goals unless wind and solar projects get timely planning permission, conference told

Most renewable projects take 10 years to go from initial design to the grid.

Renewable Energy Ireland chair Dr Tanya Harrington addressed delegates attending the Engineers Ireland annual conference in Dublin on Wednesday, 25th October.

Dr Harrington spoke about Ireland’s climate and energy challenges and, in particular, the need to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy to decarbonise at the pace required to meet our targets for 2030 and 2050. She also brought into focus the opportunity that comes in the field of Green Skills, which will be the building blocks of the green transition and the key to unlocking the human capital that will power it.

Urgent need to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy

In Ireland, we legislated in 2021 to halve our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to transition to zero emissions by 2050. The deployment of renewable electricity technologies in Ireland has been hugely successful, but our climate goals and what is expected to be delivered from this sector is highly ambitious, considering the timeline for projects to go from initial design to the grid.

Currently, it takes two years for an environmental assessment on a renewable energy project to be carried out. Such a project spends a further year to four years waiting for planning permission to be granted at local or national level. That is followed by a grid connection application (ECP) which typically takes several years to achieve. The project developers then need to sell the electricity to the grid.

Dr Harrington warned that Ireland will not meet its renewable energy targets unless a “fit for purpose” planning system is introduced. There is also a need for other agencies involved in approving such projects to make decisions quicker.

Every project that is needed to meet Ireland’s renewable energy demands is in the pipeline at present, she stated, “but if it takes this long, the targets will not be met. The scale of ambition and the likelihood of delivery are not aligned”.

Ireland will have to double the amount of onshore wind energy and increase solar technology tenfold to meet its targets by 2030. “The lack of resources and the lack of timely decision making is really a challenge for us,” she said.

Reporter with The Irish Times, Rory McGreevy, covered this topic in more detail.

Green Skills: The Human Capital to power the transition

The challenge of addressing rapidly accelerating climate change also brings a world of possibilities – significant public benefits such as creating jobs, developing green skills, and building Ireland’s energy security.

Dr Harrington highlighted that “Green skills are the building blocks of the green transition and the key to unlocking the human capital that will power it”.

Dr Harrington urged policy-makers to champion green skills and “prepare the workforce for the green transition by connecting green skills, jobs and the broader green economy policies to ensure talent development is balanced with demand and the pace of transformation in the marketplace”. She urged the business leaders gathered at the conference to invest in upskilling current and future green talent within their organisations.

Concluding her talk, Dr Harrington stated that “the prize is proportionate to the challenge: An Ireland that is energy-independent, with its own secure source of clean power”.

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