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Engineers slam govt energy proposals as “technically flawed” and “simplistic in the extreme”

The Irish Academy of Engineering have blasted the Government’s report on the security of Ireland’s energy supply as “technically flawed”, “unrealistic”, and “simplistic in the extreme” – claiming the plans will fail to meet Ireland’s energy needs by 2030. 

The Engineers’ group said that the absence of plans for a Liquified Natural Gas Terminal “poses a high risk to the reliability of the Irish power system”. 

They also warned that green hydrogen technology is “not remotely close to commercial development – and that Ireland’s reliance on a “single import point at Moffat, Scotland” for gas, “remains a serious strategic threat to the reliability of Irish gas supplies.

The Government’s proposals were published in a specially-commissioned review in September. The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications is now drawing up policy recommendations based on the review. The recommendations are expected to be published in early 2023.. 

However, The Irish Academy for Engineering have criticised the proposals contained in the report, describing them as “technically flawed and unrealistic”.

Responding to the report, Don Moore, Chair of the Energy Committee at the Irish Academy of Engineering, said that the measures simply will not meet Ireland’s energy needs, describing them as “simplistic in the extreme”.

“While the report’s statistical analyses estimating the risk to the Irish power system are adequate, the measures proposed to provide an acceptable reliability standard in 2030 are simplistic in the extreme, are technologically flawed, ignore financing and permitting timescales and, overall, render the report entirely unsuitable as a basis for further energy planning”, he said. 

Highlighting the content of the report, the Academy detailed the proposed options to maintain the reliability of Ireland’s electricity system in 2030.

In a statement, it said: “An initial reading of the report exposes many major technical shortcomings and inadequacies in the proposals for future actions. In the opinion of the Academy these thoroughly invalidate its use in underpinning Government policy going forward”.

The Academy said that on reading the report, it is clear it “excludes a critically important option”, namely the importation of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) via an Irish import terminal, adding that the reason underpinning the decision is “seriously flawed”.

“The lack of such a facility in the medium and long term poses a high risk to the reliability of the Irish power system. Far from being excluded, this option should have been considered as a potential major contributor to the long-term security of Ireland’s energy supply,” it said.

It added that while green hydrogen technology will “hopefully play a role” in decarbonising energy consumption in Ireland and also further afield, despite the report’s optimism, such technology is “not remotely close to commercial development and is highly unlikely to be available at large commercial scale before 2035”.

It said that large scale storage of hydrogen is only possible today in geological salt deposits. While no geological formations suitable for the storage of hydrogen exists within Irish jurisdiction, this is not addressed in the report.

“The single import point for Irish gas supplies at Moffat, Scotland, remains a serious strategic threat to the reliability of Irish gas supplies. It is essential for the security of Irish energy supplies that Ireland develops its own LNG import facility as soon as possible”, Chair Don Moore said.

 He highlighted the fact that some of the proposals for a floating LNG facility could only supply less than four days of Ireland’s gas demand.

The Academy has made a submission to the consultation, adding that it has commenced a review of the report.

It said that while the statistical analysis is acceptable, it is clear that the measures proposed by the government’s review will not meet Ireland’s energy needs in 2030, adding: “The Academy, in the interests of Ireland’s energy users, strongly recommends a major revision of the underlying thinking evident in the report”.

In a statement, the Department said the review of energy supply of Ireland’s electricity and gas systems is focused on the period up to 2030, but in the context of a sustainable transition to net zero emissions by 2050.

The Department said that over 400 submissions had been received. It said that all responses and submissions will be examined and carefully considered. 

It said that the report “considers potential risks to both our natural gas and electricity supplies and examines a range of measures to mitigate these risks, including the need for additional capacity to import energy, to reduce energy use, energy storage, fuel diversification and renewable gases (such as biomethane and hydrogen)”.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines energy security as ‘the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price’. 

The report detailed how Ireland’s energy system is “going through a period of transformational change and, as we transition to a net-zero emissions future, we must ensure the pathway of decarbonisation is underpinned by affordability and security in how we access and use energy in our everyday lives”.

The Government commissioned report continued: “Having a reliable source of energy is vital for consumers to have confidence in the transition to a net zero emissions future”.

It said that as Ireland’s energy systems evolve, with increasing volumes of energy coming from renewable sources, security of energy supply must be maintained.

The report detailed how the Department is undertaking a review of the security of supply of Ireland’s electricity and natural gas systems. As part of the review, a consultation was held, closing on 28 October. The review sought views on policy measures which could be implemented, with the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, planning to bring his security of energy supply recommendations to Government once the review process has been completed.

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