Peat offsets no-coal in Ireland’s drive for greener generation

According to data supplied by ENTSO-E, Ireland saw a total of 30 days without coal-fired generation on the system. This will aid Ireland’s progress in meeting its green ambitions. However, the latest research from Cornwall Insight Ireland shows that the presence of peat on the system may have offset some of the decarbonisation benefits of lower coal power station output.

The graph shows the generation mix during the period in which there was no-coal output and illustrates how peat was the third highest form of electricity supply averaging 12% of Ireland’s generation mix. Given peat’s carbon intensity, due to its lower calorific value than coal, this volume of output offsets some of the drop off in emissions from coal’s decline.

Graph showing Ireland's fossil fuel output between 11 April and 7 May

Joe Camish Analyst at Cornwall Insight Ireland, said:

“The current 30-day run of no-coal fired generation in Ireland shows the changing nature of the generation mix in the country. However, the continued presence of peat dampens the full decarbonisation impact of coal being out of the picture.

“This is unlikely to be a long-lasting feature of the mix. The market continues to shift. Policy changes and policy-driven renewable deployment may lead to deteriorating economics for peat plants. For example, rising EU ETS carbon prices, cheaper gas and closer to zero marginal cost renewables could all reduce Peat’s current contribution to the Irish generation mix.

“Already, the pressure is starting to be felt in the form of the elimination of the annual industry subsidies for peat-fired generation ceasing by the end of this year, with this year’s totalling €65.5mn. This is already having real-world consequences. For example, Bord na Móna announced that it will cut its peat supply for electricity generation by a third by next year, ending it entirely by 2027.”