Wind energy has provided 34pc of Ireland’s energy so far this year, on the back of record figures in recent months, a new report shows.
The latest figures from Wind Energy Ireland found it accounted for 21pc of all of the country’s power last month.
July saw a two-fold increase in demand met by wind, compared with the same period last year.
Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe said the figures show it plays a “crucial” role in shielding customers from rising energy prices, even in months when the wind energy output is lower.
“While figures in July are lower than previous months, this is in line with seasonal expectations,” he said.
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“What is heartening to see is that wind energy met twice as much of the electricity demand this July as in July 2021, which is a significant increase.
“Figures also show that even in months with lower output, wind energy still plays a crucial role in shielding customers from the worst of the fossil fuel-driven increases in wholesale electricity prices.”
Mr Cunniffe said that while wholesale electricity prices rose significantly in the past month due to high fossil fuel costs, despite lower levels of wind generation there was still almost 40 euro in the difference between the cost per MWh on the windiest and least windy days – 256.66 euro and 295.58 euro respectively.
The average price for MWh per month was €267.19.
The latest data comes in the wake of a Government announcement last week that offshore wind generation targets will increase from five gigawatts to seven gigawatts per year by 2030 in a bid to meet climate change targets.
Mr Cunniffe welcomed the increased targets but warned that the planning system needs to be urgently reformed to ensure projects are built quickly.
He said: “Our members have a project pipeline that is significantly bigger than 7GW. We have the investment, the skills and the expertise to respond to this call to action from the Government.
“However, in order to meet these targets, our planning system must be urgently reformed and properly resourced to ensure that the renewable energy projects needed to cut our carbon emissions and drive down electricity bills can get built as quickly as possible.”
The figures emerged as the Government has launched a €65 million research fund to help Ireland become climate neutral by 2050 and address the challenges of disruptive technologies.
Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said the areas of green transition and digital transformation are among the “greatest challenges our country and our world faces”.
“We have to help people through these changes,” Mr Harris said.
“This fund will help each and every one of us by navigating the best way forward.”
Challenge teams will be interdisciplinary with scientists, engineers and researchers working together with government bodies to develop solutions to problems of national importance, partnering with stakeholders to develop, test and trial solutions
The National Challenge Fund comprises eight challenges. In total, it aims to fund about 90 research teams with up to 250,000 euro each over 18 months to develop their ideas.
Teams will then be able to vie for follow-on funding of up to €500,000 before going on to compete for prizes of up to two million euro.
The first two challenges are now open for applications. These include the 2050 Challenge: to develop transformative, forward-looking solutions for Ireland to become climate neutral by 2050; and the Future Digital Challenge: to address the challenge from disruptive digital technologies.
Disruptive technologies include e-commerce, video-streaming sites, virtual reality, augmented reality, online news sites, ride-sharing apps and GPS systems, among others.
Mr Harris said research and innovation have to be at the heart of addressing Ireland’s social, economic and environmental challenges.
The Wicklow TD said: “The National Challenge Fund is a tangible example of this strategy in action.
“I encourage everyone to consider the 18,000 submissions put forward by the public as part of Creating Our Future as we want to respond to issues that matter to people.
“Challenge teams will be interdisciplinary with scientists, engineers and researchers working together with government bodies to develop solutions to problems of national importance, partnering with stakeholders to develop, test and trial solutions.”
The National Challenge Fund is an initiative under the Government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan. It is funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility and managed by Science Foundation Ireland.
All eight of the challenges in the fund focus on the need for a transition to a climate-neutral and clean economy as well as the challenges of digital transition.
There are challenges related to healthy environment, energy innovation, sustainable communities, and future food systems, among others.
Science Foundation Ireland deputy director general Ciaran Seoighe said he was “delighted” to have this new funding.
He said: “We look forward to working in partnership with government departments and agencies to define the challenges and help to build partnership with the wider research community to develop research solutions to these challenges.
“This is an exciting and rewarding opportunity for research teams to work in partnership with stakeholders to provide solutions to tangible problems that will benefit our society and economy.”
Each challenge incorporates four stages. The model of the competition means that researchers will receive increasing funding at each stage of the process. Research teams and ideas will be evaluated by an independent, international panel of experts.
Awards for each phase will be made between this year and 2026.