EirGrid working to restore nature in move towards cleaner energy

EirGrid, the operator and developer of the national electricity grid, is implementing measures to put nature restoration to the fore of its projects, as it works to safeguard natural environments in the move towards cleaner energy.

In the face of the twinned biodiversity and climate emergency, it is transforming the electricity system to cater for more renewable sources, with the Irish government setting the target for 80% of the State’s electricity needs coming from renewable energy by 2030.

As electricity can be generated without carbon emissions, harnessing renewable sources such as wind and solar, in a move towards a cleaner energy future will be crucial in our response to climate change.

Reaching this climate neutral economy while also maintaining a consistent power supply means that the electricity system must undergo a major overhaul, with EirGrid central to much of this work.

However, nature is facing a critical threat of its own, and changes to the electricity system must reflect the need to protect and enhance ecosystems.

“We at EirGrid have accelerated our actions for nature since the Government declared the joint biodiversity and climate crisis in 2019,” Lead Senior Ecologist with EirGrid, Robert Fennelly, explained.

“While making the move to renewable energy is vital in meeting our climate ambitions, biodiversity restoration must happen in parallel. Nature restoration now forms part of all our major projects.”

Since 2022, consultants working with EirGrid are now required to implement ‘Nature Inclusive Design’ proposals across their work on grid projects.

Nature is being given equal weight in the planning of projects across the country, which will also contribute towards meeting Ireland's climate action targets and providing electricity capacity to meet increasing electricity demand, supporting economic growth locally and nationally.

EirGrid has been working on nature restoration projects since 2019, including the East West Interconnector Biodiversity Project, where EirGrid has been conducting a scientific study of how best to manage grassland for wildflowers, as well as planting native trees, establishing an orchard, and creating insect habitat.

In 2022, EirGrid launched a standalone biodiversity strand to its community benefit fund policy, with equal funding assigned to biodiversity, sustainability, and community projects.

Along with this, as the offshore transmission operator and owner, EirGrid will be taking its nature inclusive design ambition offshore by developing designs for offshore cables and substations to attract marine life to infrastructure, such as carbon-neutral reef cubes, 'fish hotels,' and Marine Matts that protect subsea cables and pipelines.

Under the targets set out in the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2023, Ireland needs 9GW of onshore wind capacity by 2030, with at least 5HW of offshore capacity, along with Solar PV capacity of 8GW.

“At EirGrid, protecting and restoring nature is integral to our work to decarbonise the electricity grid,” Fennelly concluded.

“We can and will do more to tackle the urgent challenge of the climate and biodiversity crises.”

To learn more about how EirGrid is delivering a cleaner energy future, visit eirgrid.ie.