Renewable energy and other sources of alternative energy are very critical in ensuring clean, secure energy that is free from the global and regional climatic changes. Some scholars have established that there are three fundamental assumptions in the present discussions on Greenhouse gas emissions (mainly CO2), energy, and climate. Firstly, there is the adoption and utilisation of methods of producing and conserving clean sources of energy globally. Secondly, requirements for future carbon abatement technologies and regulations on emissions to ensure clean energy production and conservation, and the necessity to act with importunity (Subhadra and Edwards, 2010). It is technically known that electrical power utility comprises a vertically-integrated scheme that is subdivided into four key processes such as Generation, Transmission, Distribution, and Utilisation of electrical power. Thus, power supply focuses on production and transmission of energy to end consumers at a fordable price. Besides, this branch of power system utility is charged with a tacit mandate of delivering appropriate electrical power according to the required standards with precise power reliability. This fluctuating sporadically produced AC power is often the algebraic sum of all connected loads such as industries, residential, and commercial premises. Therefore, the nature of the power system calls for effective and efficient Electrical Energy Management system (EEM) because of its environmental advancements and economic benefits, so that a sound result and strategizing of various alternatives can be adopted to reduce power consumption.
Ireland is one of the countries in the 21st century that is facing a steady and gradual rise in fuel costs and is increasingly becoming curious about means of monitoring energy to reduce its consumption. Moreover, the country is alternating producers with climate change by seeking new electricity and gas markets. The emergence of ISO 50001 and other energy management standards like ISO14001 have significantly assisted the country to reduce its cost of fuel, monitor energy consumption, and seek alternative sources of energy. However, the effectiveness and efficiency of these standards, including others like EMAS, still needs examination. Furthermore, the introduction of National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) in the country about a decade ago has triggered obligations of the public sector to reconsider its management function on climate monitoring by enhancing Ireland’s energy efficiency by approximately 33.0% by 2020s. The process of Ireland’s energy management system is not a complex system. The country needs to regard power as a direct cost affecting both domestic and businesses, which eventually impact labour and sources of raw materials for industries. Though the steps needed to conserve energy effectively tend to vary from one company to another, based on the size of the organisation, there is the urgent need for industries in Ireland to start energy management initiatives to realise the 20% cost reduction by 2020. This paper seeks to review some of the undertakings for Ireland to move to a decarbonised energy future, underlying policies, and future challenges.
The Background of Energy Efficiency Policy
The European Union (EU) has come up with an effective way of achieving long-term energy supply security, curbing climatic changes and environmental degradation by pollutants. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) has been found to be one of the most cost-effective ways of improving energy efficiency in Europe by 2020. This strategy will help countries such as Ireland to maintain their sustainable economic growth and shift to a resource-efficient economy (Energy Efficiency Plan, 2011, p.2). Ireland has come up with a declarative objective of saving about 20% of Europe’s major energy consumption by 2020. Other EU agencies, such as the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), CO2 performance standards for cars and vans, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), the Ecodesign Directive, the Emissions Trading Scheme, and the Energy Labelling Directive, have also shown their support towards the attainment of this target by 2020 (Communication From The Commission to the European Parliament and The Council, 2014, p.3). Energy Efficiency Directive has stated its member states such as Ireland to set declarative national goals for energy efficiency and submit their progressions to the National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAP) database for monitoring and evaluation.
In 2009, Ireland submitted its first report to the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan database as directed by both Energy Efficiency Directive and Energy Services Directive. This report reasserted that the initial goal of achieving a 20% energy saving by 2020 is possible. By 2013, Ireland released another report referred to as NEEAP3. According to this latest release, Ireland needs to put in more effort to achieve the 2020’s 20% energy saving target regardless of the earlier substantial savings, which had been achieved in the past, particularly in the deployment of electric cars (NEEAP3, 2014). NEEAP3 gives a detailed account of various measures and undertakings that Ireland needs to consider as well as data for 2012, 2016, and the projections of 2020 energy savings in industries, transport, public sector, buildings, and supply side.
Some scholars have also identified the possibility for an extra 50% rise in energy savings in Ireland based on the current energy measures within the country (White, 2015). According to White (2015), the country has identified that by 2020, there are a lot of ‘non-transport’ energy-saving measures that would save about 16000 GWh of energy (p.48). Nevertheless, Mr. White also acknowledged that this strategy would require more extensive measures compared to the initial measures that the country has been using in the past few years such as deep retrofitting of current building stocks and utility infrastructure upgrades. For that reason, The Energy White Paper recognised various measures revolving around the provision of financial advisory support, including other regulatory measures needed to achieve the projected energy efficiency for the cost-effective energy transition. Moreover, the identification of these barriers that potentially hinder the role of the consumer in making decisions regarding the need to incorporate effective energy-saving measures and establish inexpensive energy efficiency funding opportunities for householders is very vital for Ireland. In his report on, White (2015) argues that working on reasonable financing options in the country would call for a cross-comparative analysis on how such systems work in other countries such as Germany and the UK where such alternatives have been obligating for power consumers and feasible for money lenders. Thus, continual participation in various initiatives such as the Large Industry Energy Network and providing relevant information to the Energy Efficiency Obligation Systems, including Energy Efficient Homes, Energy Efficient Enterprise, and Energy Efficient Public Sector, can assist Ireland to achieve its 20% energy saving target by 2020.
Energy Efficiency in Residential Premises
Energy management comprises all undertakings, measures, and policies formulated to ensure a reduction in power consumption for all connected loads. Energy management impacts both technical and organisational aspects of the laid down frameworks, including patterns of power utilisation so that the total apparent power can be reduced on the consumer end (the energy needed for production) and seek alternative eco-friendly materials and sources to facilitate the energy efficiency of the firm. Many scholars assert that buildings account for the largest percentage of high energy consumption compared to other sectors of the economy (Gul and Patidar, 2015). However, in the public sector, building designs become the major concern for energy planners as it consumes the largest percentage of the total energy consumption.
By 2014, buildings in Ireland accounted for about 35% of the entire energy consumption and approximately 59% of electrical power utilisation (Dineen and Howley, 2016). Besides being the second largest energy consumer in Ireland, this sector has been recognised as the biggest possible source of cost-effective energy saving enhancements at the global scale by organisations like International Energy Agency (Energy Technology Perspectives 2015; IEA 2015). Currently, the country is experiencing an abnormal “residential fuel mix” in Europe. Dineen and Howley (2016) maintain that in 2014, oil was the largest source of energy in Ireland, which accounted for about 34.0% of the total residential energy consumption (p.14). In Ireland, a significant proportion of the citizens are living in rural areas with almost inaccessibility to gas grid and rely primarily on oil-fired boilers for domestic needs.
In Ireland, the demand for residential energy was relatively persistent (ranging from 23-25 MWh) from 2000 to 2006. However, as from 2007 onwards, there was a gradual and steady decline in residential energy demand as per the average fuel consumption, which was 17.90 MWh/dwelling in 2014. Figure 1 shows the total Energy Demand (Intensity)/ Dwelling. From this figure, it can be inferred that the decrease included about 75% of the total direct fuels and 25% of the electricity supply. There was a steady fluctuation of electrical power consumption from 5.2 MWh to a peak of 5.6 MWh (by 2008) and a further decline to 4.6Mwh by 2014.
Figure 1: Energy Demand/Dwelling (SEAI, 2016)
The greatest potential for Irish energy saving seems to lie in redesigning residential buildings. Deep retrofitting residential buildings has been taken very seriously in Ireland as a method of ensuring large-scale energy efficiency in the country (White, 2015, p.65). This strategy is focused on instrumenting and renovative processes in both private and public residential premises and improving the energy saving capacities of those instruments. This strategy can promote the emblematic responsibility of the public sector, propose the acceleration of the pace renovation in public buildings via binding target, and introducing energy efficiency measures in public expenditure.
Irish Future Energy Distribution Systems
A power system network consists of various elements such as generation, transmission, distribution, and utilisation of power by the consumer. In Ireland, multifunctional and smart power management systems are very critical. As outlined by White (2015), there is the urgent need to upgrade the country’s power distribution systems. The future Irish energy distribution systems will have to be more receptive to various customers’ power needs, exhibit flexibility to new and emerging energy-based technologies, which are robust and elastic in dealing with the effects of climate change. Figure 2: shows the annual energy production by fuel type by 2030 for various scenarios. From the figure, it is evident that the Irish energy generation from peat and coal will be phased out by 2030. However, the energy production from gas, wind, and biomass tends to increase in all the four scenarios as solar power’s low capacity factor proves to be a limiting factor in its energy production by 2030.
Figure 2: Annual fuel type production by 2030 (Slye, 2017)
The energy transition from centralized fossil-focused fuel to a distributed renewable energy sources presents problems for the current power grids and power infrastructures in the country. Ireland must address challenges such as future power connectivity problems and ensure that its power is connected to whole Europe and the UK network. It noteworthy that the current “cross-border Renewable Integration Development Project” is going to determine the optimal grid configuration of electrical power transmission to the northern and western Ireland to account for alternative sources of energy, such as “the east-west interconnector (EWIC)” (White, 2015, p.82; RIDP, 2017). However, it would be important for the country to consider investing in similar projects in all islands to realise the needed decarbonisation of the entire energy system.
The challenging future carbon transition process from fossil fuels to grid decarbonised systems seem to be quite expensive for Ireland, and a lot of power elements must be replaced. The process will have to incorporate not only renewable sources of energy but also microgeneration. It is also important to address issues about institutions, social, and socio-economic challenges. The continued investments in the modern “smart energy management systems” will help Ireland with both domestic and industrial needs of power consumers. Rural electrification, including a power supply and heating devices, will be required in future, though the most vital idea behind the realisation of this vision is the multifunctional grid for the country.
Multi-functional grids such as “Grid25” has been undertaken by EirGrid to present a planned outline for the establishment of the Irish future electricity transmission to enhance long lasting reliable and sustainable power supply from the Northern to Southern Ireland (White, 2015, p.82). Grid25 will meet the future Irish power demands, support the electrical power transmission network, and recommend the alternatives for “Grid West” that seeks to utilise few overhead power cables.
Incorporation of “smart grid” into the Irish power network is very critical for the mainlining power stability in Ireland. Smart grid refers to an electrical system that supplies energy to various electronic devices, power generators, and other elements of the distribution system such as relays and circuit breakers that are remotely interlinked through a communication channel. These systems (smart grids) can facilitate power distribution by delivering power from generating systems such as wind turbines, micro-renewables (such as the photovoltaic systems), and the Combined Heat and Power (CHP), by reducing system loses and enhancing overall system/energy efficiency. Power stability problems such as dynamic transients and floating loads or spinning loads can be solved by a smart grid thereby preventing the whole network failure.
Ireland’s Energy Efficiency and Climate Change
The energy systems in Ireland will undergo a critical transformation in the future. This shift in new systems of energy management is triggered by global action to curb climate change. Various policies enacted by the EU such as 2015 the White Paper on Energy, the 2014 National Policy Statement on Climate Change, and the energy savings targets of the EU’s 2020 Climate and Energy Package and 2030 Climate and Energy Framework are currently supporting this energy transformation. All these policies are envisaging a low-carbon European atmosphere by 2025. This decarbonisation movement has provided various policy frameworks on how the public sector can manage energy in Ireland and demonstrate how the benefits of energy efficiency in the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy can be realized. Figure 3 shows the total carbon emission from Ireland’s industries and other sources of pollutants, including future projections.
Figure 3: Total Carbon Emissions from 2016 through 2020 to 2030(Quirke et al., 2018).
The White Paper by White (2015) restates the responsibility bestowed upon the public sector in the NEEAP3 to realise the projected target of enhancing energy efficiency by 33.0% (S.I. No. 426, 2014). These strategies that the Irish government is undertaking demonstrates the strong global agreement that presently dominates the global debate on the critical benefits of energy savings for effectual action on climate change (Energy Efficiency Plan, 2011). The IEA maintains that as states tend to regard energy efficiency as the first fuel while seeking for alternative sources of energy based on the most cost-effective energy, priority should be given to the energy that is not used, also referred to as reserve power in electrical power systems. The evaluation of the IEA shows that Irish economic growth, improvement of social expansion, good energy management systems, the creation of wealth, and advancement of environmental sustainability can be largely supported by energy efficiency (IEA, 2014). These energy efficiency benefits are likely to surpass the common back-scaling of power demand in Ireland. Moreover, the reframing of the analysis regarding the “hidden fuel” by the IEA demonstrates that the energy efficiency can not only enhance economic growth but also reduce energy demand. However, regardless of the critical role that energy efficiency could play in ensuring low energy demand among Irish consumers, the IEA’s analysis shows that based on the present frameworks and strategies of efficient power, 60% of the economically-viable energy efficiency potential that can serve up to 2035 may not be fully exploited.
The long-term projection of the EU energy plan for the future, running through 2020 to 2050 has been developed. Just like other countries worldwide, in Ireland, the proliferation of carbon dioxide emissions and power consumption in the built environments has triggered the need for implementation of policies that could help save energy and improve energy efficiency (Pérez-Lombard, Ortiz, and Pout, 2008). These strategies and plans adopted by the Irish government can be seen as a long-time frame. However, considering the timespan needed to alter energy consumer behaviours and the establishment of energy infrastructures, the strategy looks realistically unachievable, and there is the need to take very urgent action. According to White (2015), realising the 2050 carbon (IV) Oxide emissions reduction by not less than 80% might force the EU countries, such as Ireland, to redesign their energy saving systems on the realisable low-carbon course as fast as possible.
The Low-Carbon Transition and Future Challenges
The Irish transition from a low-carbon trajectory-based society will lead to good economic growth with good atmosphere for massive investments by both private and public sectors. Currently, Ireland depends mostly on fossil energy, which accounts for about 90% of the total energy sources in the country. The country is finding itself at the centre of a carbon-intensive system without warning, particularly in electrical power generation, heating and transport sector. This demonstrates what is referred to as “infrastructure lock-in” including creating a deadlock in cultural and societal aspects. There is the urgent need to improve technological innovation, increase investments and information outsourcing, enhance education, and improve positive behavioural change to surmount this destructive energy cycle and embrace renewable energy sources. Alternative sources of energy must be supported through education and good information solicitation that could enable the Irish society, their organisations, and individuals collaborate to manage this complicated low-carbon transition challenge. Figure 4 shows the capacity limits of fossil fuels generation in Ireland. It can be deduced that the generation capacity is relatively small for consumer action, slow change, low carbon living, and steady evolution. Nevertheless, the generation profiles of all the four scenarios portray a dramatic change from 2017 to 2040.
Figure 4: Range of fossil fuel capacity (Slye, 2017)
The transition to a decarbonised energy by Ireland presents various opportunities for several players in different scales, and will incorporate both public and private investments in various energy bases, efficiency, and advanced energy management systems. Ireland will be forced to modify its approaches to technological advancements, particularly in the transport sector and domestic heating by initiating mass rural electrification countrywide. Nevertheless, the products of “gasification” in the carbon-enriched fuel, also called the “syngas,” including other fuels such as hydrogen-based power plants, are becoming potential sources of future Irish energy. Therefore, there is a need for huge capital investments in such technologies to support these progressive procedures and specifically, information sourcing to facilitate Irish energy consumers engagements.
Realising energy targets in Ireland and successfully transitioning from fossil fuels to a decarbonised energy society can lead to significant socio-economic gain for the country. This paper has established that there is a very challenging Irish future energy opportunity. A review of the Energy White paper establishes that about 90% of the total Ireland energy sources is dominated by fossil fuels. It is evident that phasing out these carbonated fuels is very vital for the future development of the country and needs to be substituted by renewable energy sources such as tidal energy, solar energy, or wind power. For several years, EU has developed an effective way of achieving long-term energy supply security, curbing climatic changes and environmental degradation by pollutants. Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) has been found to be one of the most cost-effective ways of improving energy efficiency in Europe by 2020. Ireland has come up with a declarative objective of saving about 20% of Europe’s major energy consumption by 2020. However, the country is facing several challenges in realising its 2020 energy saving targets, including other targets for renewable sources of energy. There is an urgent need to ramp up various activities through effective energy management systems and promoting society participation to help the country realise its future energy targets.
This review underpins the blueprint and pertinent undertakings for Ireland to move to a decarbonised energy future. However, the challenging future carbon transition process from fossil fuels to grid decarbonised systems seem to be quite expensive for Ireland, and a lot of power elements must be replaced. The process will have to incorporate not only renewable sources of energy but also microgeneration. Moreover, it is evident that the country is still facing several challenges to realise the vision 2050 of low-carbon energy reports on the progress of Ireland’s strategies can be a beneficial initiative to enable progressive tracking and measurements of the outputs. There is the need to invest in effective and sustainable energy sources and integrate various technologies such as smart grids to the power system. For that reason, there is the need to consider energy distribution systems as drivers for realising Irelands’ energy saving vision and establishing low-carbon energy through citizens’ engagement.
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