Monday, 15 April 2024 15:35

Irish Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan: Ireland Ireland is a world leader in the integration of variable renewable electricity onto the grid

Caspian Energy (CE): Ireland is called one of the most energy import-dependent countries in Europe. What measures are taken to ensure energy independence?

Eamon Ryan, Minister for Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport of Ireland: Increasing the utilisation of indigenous renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar energy, is the best defence that Ireland, as a country that is currently fossil fuel import-dependent, has to improve whilst continuing to pursue our ambitions under the annual Climate Action Plan to reach 80% electricity generation using renewables by 2030.

Climate change, energy security and economic competitiveness are inter-related challenges that will be addressed by transforming Ireland’s economy from one currently based on fossil fuel dependence to a low carbon economy underpinned by energy efficiency, renewable energy, and smart networks.

An accelerated transition to renewable electricity will be critical to successfully meet the ambitious renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set out in the recently adopted EU Renewable Energy Directive and Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2023. The transition will also protect against security of supply risks through a renewable-led system in line with the Government’s recently launched ‘Energy Security in Ireland to 2030’ report.

CE: There is a broad potential for generating energy out of wind which Ireland abounds in. What could you say about the progress of the wind ener­gy sector development?

Eamon Ryan:  Wind and solar energy will play a critical role in this accele­rated transition, with onshore wind continuing to be one of the leading cost-effective technologies to achieve our renewable electricity and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, as well as displacing emissions in other sectors, including household heating and vehicle transport.

Ireland is a world leader in the integration of variable renewable electricity onto the grid. While we are in the top five globally for installed wind po­wer capacity per capita (with some 4.7 GW connected), solar PV is a growing source of electricity and is rapidly transforming Ireland’s energy system with an expected 1 GW by year end.

CE: Ireland has committed to generate 80% of energy out of renewable sources by 2030. Do you find this goal achievable?

Eamon Ryan: Transformational changes are needed to reach this target and move to a renewables-led electricity system. To achieve this, two task forces have been set up:

• The Offshore Wind Delivery Taskforce has been established to drive delivery and capture the wider and longer-term economic and business opportunities associated with the development of offshore renewables in Ireland.

• The Accelerating Renewable Electricity Taskforce has been established to coordinate the fast-track and increased deployment and output of renewable electricity generation and supporting technologies in the near-term.

CE:  What challenges did Brexit cause for the transportation sector of Ireland?

Eamon Ryan: From the outset, the Government recognised the unprecedented challenges Brexit posed for the transport sector and responded on a cross-governmental basis with regular stakeholder engagements, the roll-out of the Government’s “Brexit Ready” campaign, and the provision of substantial physical infrastructure at Dublin Port, Rosslare Europort, and Dublin Airport. The Department of Transport engaged directly with transport sector stakeholders on a weekly basis to ensure that transport operations could continue with minimal interruption.

By the end of the Brexit transition period (1 January 2021), Ireland had seen a rapid and unprecedented reconfiguration of its traditional supply chains. New customs obligations drove a surge in the demand for services on direct routes between Irish ports and mainland Europe, with new infrastructure ensuring that Ireland could effectively manage the new requirements for checks and controls on trade with the UK as a consequence of Brexit. This reorganisation of Ireland’s supply chains was made possible by the unprecedented response from the shipping industry in terms of increasing capacity to match market demand. This was clear evidence of the resilience of the Irish transport sector.

The Government remains in regular contact with the sector and is committed to supporting the transport sector with new developments in this post-Brexit environment, including arrangements for the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland agreed through the Windsor Framework in March 2023. As a further outworking of Brexit, in August 2023, the UK Government announced new controls on imports from Ireland into Great Britain (UK Targeted Operating Model (TOM)) to be introduced on a phased basis from January 2024. Traders exporting goods from Ireland to the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) or across the UK land bridge may need to adapt their operations to comply with the new rules. The Government is engaged with Irish exporters to make sure they are ready for these new rules.

CE: What could you say about the progress of building environmentally sustainable transport infrastructure? The country’s state budget for 2023 included high expenditures on implementation of large projects in terms of public transport and climate. Could you please provide more detailed information about them?

Eamon Ryan: The National Development Plan 2021-2030 (NDP) was launched by the Government in October 2021, establishing a ten-year public capital investment framework. The NDP provides for significantly increased allocations for land transport investment and notes that prioritisation will be required within the new funding envelope in line with the 2:1 Programme for Government commitment on new public transport and new roads, the National Investment Framework for Transport in Ireland framework, the National Planning Framework and the requirements of the Climate Action Plan.

Government approved the BusConnects Dublin programme in principle in March 2022 as well as the procurement strategy for Next Generation Ticketing. Five phases of the Network Redesign are now live, with significant uplift in passenger numbers observed on these routes. Twelve planning applications have been lodged with An Bord Pleanála since April 2022 in respect of the Core Bus Corridor infrastructure.

MetroLink (largely underground, high speed train from the Northern outskirts of the city to the south centre city) received Government approval-in-principle in July 2022 and was subsequently lodged with An Bord Pleanála by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) on 30 September to commence the statutory planning process. An Bord Pleanála has confirmed it is to hold an oral hearing for MetroLink, although a date for the hearing has yet to be set. In July 2023, TII appointed a Client Partner to support the efficient and effective delivery of the next phases of the project. Pending a positive planning decision, it is expected that the project will move through Decision Gate 2 of the Public Spending Code this year.

The DART+ programme (extension of commuter rail) was granted approval-in-principle by the Government in December 2021. Since then, two orders for a total of 185 new carriages have been placed under the DART+ Fleet framework, in December 2021 and November 2022. The first of these new units will arrive for testing in 2024 and enter service in 2025, with battery-electric carriages extending DART services to Drogheda in advance of overhead electrification. The DART+ West project, which will extend services to Maynooth and M3 Parkway and include the construction of a new depot, was lodged with An Bord Pleanála in July 2022. The DART+ South West project, which will extend services to Hazelhatch, was lodged with An Bord Pleanála in March 2023.

Phase 1 of the Cork Area Commuter Rail Programme, which is the largest project in Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan and earmarked to receive €164 million in EU Recovery and Resilience Facility funding, is also progressing well. Works have commenced on the redevelopment of Kent Station and construction of a new through-platform to allow direct services between Mallow to the north and Cobh and Midleton for the first time. A contract was signed in respect of network-wide resignalling, with detailed design now underway and works to commence this year. A planning application was lodged with An Bord Pleanála in respect of double tracking the line between Glounthaune and Midleton in November 2022.

As noted above, a large number of transport projects are currently with An Bord Pleanála awaiting decision. The length and uncertainty around when An Bord Pleanála will issue planning decisions for these projects is an ongoing issue. There have been some recent positive developments with an oral hearing for DART+ West being held earlier this month. However, previous delays and postponements of decisions have meant that some projects that had been expected to enter construction in 2023 have now been delayed until at least 2024.

In addition, the Government is committed to spending €1 million a day on walking, cycling and wheeling infrastructure as part of the country’s active travel programme.


Thank you for the interview




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