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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

 

Patrick Mohr

Pathways to 2030: Sustainable Energy for Ireland

Patrick Mohr

Pathways to 2030: Sustainable Energy for Ireland

The challenge of developing a sustainable energy system is being driven globally by the twin threat of climate change and an over reliance on a non-renewable fuel stock. Electricity demand is growing, and although it is a clean form of energy at end-use, it is only as clean as the technologies utilised to generate and distribute it. This dissertation will examine Ireland’s potential with regards to decarbonising its electricity generation sector and reducing its reliance on fossil fuels.

Ireland has one of the highest energy dependency rates in Europe, importing over 90% of the country’s energy needs due to a lack of indigenous fossil fuel resources. But Ireland is blessed with a world-class renewable wind, wave and tidal energy resource. This resource remains largely undeveloped. This dissertation will present three scenarios of Ireland’s energy future to 2030 by examining the various constraints and opportunities for developing a sustainable electrical energy system.

What will Ireland do?
Irish institutions have published projections to 2020 and these documents form the basis of illustrating this scenario. In determining the likely course of action for Ireland to 2030, the analysis will take special consideration for the current economic and political context in Ireland and the need to create high quality employment, control public spending and return the country to growth.

What should Ireland do?
This scenario offers a degree of freedom not normally afforded to the energy developer, as it is free of economic, infrastructure and institutional constraints. Ireland has 6% of EU renewable resources and only 1% of EU population offering the realistic possibility of developing a fully renewable electricity generation sector. The problem with renewable resources is their intermittent nature and balancing the load with an ever-changing demand profile is a challenge to be addressed. Energy storage and grid interconnection with other EU countries offers a sustainable solution to this issue provided that the market mechanisms are set up appropriately to promote this target.

What can Ireland do?
A historical review of the development of generation and grid infrastructure will precede this scenario. The Irish energy sector was opened to competition in 2000 and the process of deregulation continues today and impacts the future development of capital-intensive infrastructure projects such as large wind penetrations, energy storage facilities and grid interconnections. Due to the high level of uncertainty inherent in the energy sector, traditional economic evaluation techniques do not accurately assess value to investors. This scenario will take a real options approach to investment analysis in an attempt to incorporate the uncertainties for investors.