EirGrid is launching a new five-year strategy today, aimed at transforming the electricity system on the island of Ireland.
The strategy will ensure that renewable energy accounts for 70% of all electricity use by 2030. The group will invest in excess of €2 billion over the next five years to deliver this transformation.
EirGrid has said the current surplus in energy generation capacity is expected to be eroded by growth in demand for electricity and expected plant closures, but CEO Mark Foley said this is not the basis for the need for this new plan.
"This plan is an emphatic response to the climate change crisis and the urgency around transforming the power system in order to eliminate fossil fuels and to provide massive amounts of renewables on the power system, to take carbon out of our economy and out of our society," Mr Foley said.
"We run capacity auctions every year. We run auctions to match capacity to demand in the market place, and that's a rolling process that we do on an annual basis."
Mr Foley said there will be at least six auctions between now and when Moneypoint plant in Co Clare closes at the end of 2025.
"We expect new capacity to come into the market to substitute for those fossil plants," he said.
Data Centres have become a feature of the Irish landscape and are a big drain on the electricity supply, but the EirGrid CEO said it is the grid's job to make sure the capacity is there to meet that demand.
"The digital revolution is well underway," he said. "Every single business in every sector is going digital or has gone digital.
"Data centres are a manifestation of that transformation so I think the reality of the situation is they are responding to the needs of business, to the needs of e-commerce, to the needs of society. Our job is to make sure we have the capacity to connect them, and that the generation capacity is there to supply."
EirGrid's plan to provide 70% renewable energy by 2030 is ambitious. Ireland does not have a guaranteed supply of sunshine for solar power or even wind for wind power, but the company will fall back on other less cleaner sources of energy to supply the grid.
"The backstop, to use that word, will be gas," he said. "Natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels so what will happen in the next ten years, is coal, peat and oil will come off the system in an ordered and a planned way.
"New gas capacity will come on board, and then there will be a significant ramping up in terms of on-shore wind, off-shore wind, and solar, which will give us the necessary portfolio of renewable assets in order to run the power system, and to deliver 70% renewables," he explained.
Mr Foley said the reality of the problem facing the planet is of such magnitude all technologies will be required.
He said the country has an excellent eco-system around on-shore wind that has delivered 5,000 megawatts in the past 20 years.
"We'll need more onshore wind but equally there is a fantastic opportunity in the Irish sea to produce offshore wind at very cost competitive prices. Equally, solar has a role to play and the solution here is about getting the mix right, and looking at the matter holistically," he stated.