Parties pledge a “revolution in renewables” in draft Programme for Government

This article was originally published on 14 July 2020 in our ‘Energy Spectrum Ireland’ publication. 

The leaders of the Green Party, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael signed off the draft Programme for Government (PfG) on 15 June. According to the PfG, energy will play a “central role in the creation of a strong and sustainable economy over the next decade” and Ireland will undergo a “revolution in renewables”.

The energy policies are described under the Green New Deal section of the document and are motivated by a concern with accelerating climate change. The parties are committed to an average 7% per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030 (a 51% reduction over the decade), and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. They will introduce the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill 2020 into the Dáil within 100 days which will, among other things make the adoption of five-year carbon budgets a legal requirement. A Climate Action Fund will also be established in law within 100 days.

The parties are committed to publishing a plan to deliver 5GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 – up from the current target of 3.5GW – and will aim to deliver at least 70% renewable electricity by this date. A “whole-of-government plan” setting out how to deliver this target will be produced. The first Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) auction will be held by the end of 2020, with auctions held each year thereafter, including the first RESS auction for offshore wind in 2021. There is also ambition to develop a Solar Energy Strategy for rooftop installations.

The plan mentions support for the clustering of regional and sectoral centres of excellence in the development of low carbon technologies and investment in ‘green’ hydrogen R&D.

The parties will implement a new National Energy Efficiency Action Plan to help reduce energy use and educate about behavioural aspects of energy efficiency such as building and data management. The PfG outlines an ambition to designate a National Retrofitting Delivery Body by the end of 2020. It also aims to deliver a National Aggregated Model of Retrofitting reaching over 500,000 homes by 2030, as part of the EU Renovation Wave. Local authority retrofit programme pilot schemes will commence in early 2021 to test key elements of the national plan.

On heat, the parties pledge to support the development of combined heat and power systems through a range of incentives to encourage uptake. The PfG describes new initiatives around heating systems and regulatory environment to support the development of district heating. A feasibility study on establishing a district heating authority will be published and setting new targets for district heating as part of a new strategy will be considered. There will be a targeted programme to install heat pumps in homes that are already suitable for the technology as part of a plan to install 600,000 heat pumps by 2030.

A new Public Sector Decarbonisation Strategy for 2030 will be published. This will include the development of policies to ensure greater use of energy performance contracts within the public service.

There is ambition to accelerate the electrification of the transport system, including electric bikes, electric vehicles, and electric public transport. There is support for a ban on new registrations of petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

The PfG commits to a Just Transition, with the transition out of peat in the Midlands the first test of this.

It commits to end the issue of new licenses for the exploration and extraction of gas, on the same basis as the recent decision in relation to oil exploration and extraction.

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