Irish Green party set to enter government

19 June 2020 | Trading

The leaders of Ireland's Green party have agreed a programme of government that would see the country commit to annual renewable energy auctions, target 5GW of offshore wind by 2030 and a 7pc annual reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the 2020s.

The Green party will enter into government with two larger centre-right parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, if the parties' memberships ratify the deal.

The programme commits to holding renewal electricity support scheme (RESS) auctions every year in order to meet the country's targets of 70pc of renewable electricity by 2030, including an auction for offshore wind next year. The first RESS auction was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic but is due to begin in July, and will support 1-3TWh of renewable power.

The government will target 5GW of offshore wind capacity in Ireland's eastern and southern coasts by 2030 — up from 3.5GW as previously suggested.

The government will also set out a longer-term plan aimed at developing floating offshore wind in the deeper waters of the country's Atlantic coast, where there is the potential for at least 30GW, the programme said.

The new government will consider implementing a carbon floor price in the EU emissions trading system (ETS), and will seek to raise the non-ETS sector carbon tax to €100/t of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) by 2030. The tax would be raised by €7.50/t CO2e annually until 2029, and €6.50/t CO2e in 2030. This is higher than the €80/t CO2e previously proposed by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

The programme commits to an average 7pc annual reduction in GHG emissions, amounting to a 51pc reduction over the decade, and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

A climate action bill setting the net zero target will be introduced in the first months of government, and will set five-year carbon budgets.

Other promises include developing a solar energy strategy for rooftop and ground-based photovoltaic and supporting microgeneration, letting firms sell excess power back to the grid by June 2021.

The programme also promises to strengthen the policy framework for electricity storage, interconnection, and to invest in research and development for green hydrogen.

To promote electric vehicles, new registrations of petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030.

The Green party won 12 out of 160 seats in the general election, while Fianna Fail won 38 and Fine Gael 35.

The election was held in February, but talks have been prolonged by difficult parliamentary arithmetic and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ratifying the agreement may prove difficult. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are traditional rivals and have never been in coalition — although Fine Gael has led a minority government since 2016 with support from Fianna Fail.

The Green party requires a two-thirds majority approval from its members. But members may be wary of entering another coalition with Fianna Fail — the party lost all of its seats in the 2011 election after forming a government with Fianna Fail in 2007-11.