A reliable supply of affordable energy to heat our homes and power our industries is something Irish people have taken for granted for as long as most of us remember.
However, climate change and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have shown how vulnerable Europe’s energy supplies actually are.
Russian fossil fuels are being used as an economic and political weapon, resulting in soaring energy costs and uncertain supply lines throughout Europe.
Meanwhile, the effects of climate change are already being felt across the world and delivering secure, sustainable and affordable energy for citizens and businesses has become a matter of urgency.
The European Commission is now taking action to mitigate Europe’s energy vulnerabilities for the coming winters and proposing measures to ensure reliable energy supplies for future generations.
The Green Deal is Europe’s ambitious plan to transform Europe into the first climate-neutral continent, and it also paves the way towards more affordable, secure and sustainable energy.
Russia’s military attack on Ukraine has caused energy supply problems that highlight Europe’s need to rapidly transition to clean energy sources.
Russian aggression and manipulation is affecting global and European energy markets, and we need to be resolute in our response.
Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President
The Green Deal focuses on three key principles for this clean energy transition.
- Ensuring a secure and affordable EU energy supply
- Developing a fully integrated, interconnected and digitalised EU energy market
- Prioritising energy efficiency, improving the energy performance of our buildings and developing a power sector based largely on renewable sources.
Progress has been made, with renewable energy overtaking fossil fuels as the number one power source in the EU for the first time in 2020, generating 38% of electricity, compared to 37% for fossil fuels.
However, energy poverty affects over 30 million people in the EU and the European Commission is taking steps to expedite the transition to clean, affordable energy.
Work on reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels began long before the invasion of Ukraine but the European Commission’s new REPowerEU Plan is rapidly accelerating the process.
The plan includes measures to save energy, diversify energy supplies, and accelerate the roll-out of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels in homes, industry and power generation.
Energy will be saved by actions such as increasing European Green Deal Binding Energy Efficiency Targets from 9% to 13% while Member States are being encouraged to introduce measures such as reduced VAT rates on energy efficient heating systems, building insulation, and appliances and products.
Increasing renewable energy will not only help to improve the sustainability of our energy sector, it will improve our security of supply and the affordability of energy – two challenges that we are facing in the EU at the moment.
European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson
The EU has been working with international partners to diversify supplies for several months and the newly created EU Energy Platform will enable voluntary common purchases of gas, LNG and hydrogen by pooling demand, optimising infrastructure use and coordinating outreach to suppliers.
The Commission is also considering the development of a ‘purchasing mechanism’ - similar to the vaccine purchasing programme used for Covid-19 - for energy imports. This would enable gas deals and contracts to be negotiated on behalf of Member States for mutual benefit.
A massive scaling-up and speeding-up of renewable energy in power generation, industry, buildings and transport will also accelerate energy independence as well as boosting the green transition, and reducing prices over time.
The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is the key financial instrument at the heart of the REPowerEU Plan through which Member States will be able to access funding for energy related infrastructure and projects.
The European Commission has proposed emergency intervention in Europe's energy markets to tackle dramatic price rises.
The intervention proposals include exceptional electricity demand reduction measures to cut the cost of electricity for consumers.
Under the proposals, Member States would reduce electricity demand – particularly during peak price hours - by at least 10% until the end of March, 2023,.
There would also be a temporary cap on the exceptional profits companies that produce electricity at a low cost are now making because of energy market instability. Revenues above the cap will be collected by national governments and used to help energy consumers reduce their bills.
The Commission is also proposing a temporary solidarity contribution on excess profits generated from activities in the oil, gas, coal and refinery sectors, which are not covered by the revenue cap.
Other steps initiated by the Commission include new storage rules to strengthen the EU's security of gas supply during winter and a collective commitment by Member States to reduce gas usage by 15%.
The collective commitment was proposed in the Commission’s ‘Save Gas for a Safe Winter’ plan that also outlined actions for reducing gas demand and strengthening European energy resilience.
As Ireland is not directly inter-connected to another Member State, it is not required to meet the mandatory reduction target in this regulation. However, the Irish Government is aiming to put a voluntary demand reduction plan in place.
Ireland and Energy
Ireland relies on gas and oil imports to meet its energy needs. Almost one third of Irish energy needs, and over half of the country’s electricity, comes from natural gas.
Ireland’s gas supplies are less vulnerable than those of other Member States as 75% of the country’s gas comes from the UK.
However, the country is impacted by gas price instability and there are challenges to the security of electricity supplies in Ireland caused by non-delivery of contracted capacity, increasing electricity demand and the unreliability of some existing plants.
Ireland benefits from a number of EU funded projects that improve energy connectivity. These Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) are key infrastructure developments that link EU energy systems together.
They include a Celtic Interconnector between France (La Martyre) and Ireland (Knockraha, Co Cork) and a proposed Hydroelectric Power Station at Silvermines.
European Investment Bank (EIB) funding is also helping Ireland source renewable energy. The EIB and Bank of Ireland are financing a €100 million Bord na Móna wind farm project at Cloncreen, Co Offaly, that will be able to supply up to 55,000 homes with renewable energy.
EIB finance of €65 million has also been provided to help finance an onshore wind farm in Co Mayo while a €1.5 million EIB energy grant helped renovate Tipperary homes with renewable energy systems.
Ireland is one of nine EU members of the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) – a European Commission supported framework aimed at advancing development of offshore renewable energy in the North Seas, including the Irish and Celtic Seas.
Under the Irish Co-Presidency of NSEC in September 2022, NSEC Energy Ministers and the European Commission agreed significant offshore wind energy targets that will represent more than 85% of EU-wide ambitions of reaching 300GW by 2050.
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