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Net zero cannot wait: takeaways from the Accelerate conference

The ESB-IIEA Accelerate conference in Dublin on 26 April brought together more than 350 people from across the energy community to explore the latest developments and innovations driving the transition to a net zero future.  

Attendees heard from a line-up of global and Irish policymakers, thought leaders, industry representatives and academics, with speakers including Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, and keynotes Michael Liebreich and Olivia Lazard

Key takeaways across the day’s discussions included: 

Time to redouble efforts: The warning signs can no longer be ignored, as temperature records continue to be broken and more evidence of climate breakdown emerges globally.  Faced with an uncertain political landscape, we are beginning to see a backlash against climate measures in some quarters. Speakers agreed that we cannot afford to let this narrative take hold. As ESB Chief Executive Paddy Hayes put it: “This is not the time to press the pause button.  We must keep the faith, hold our nerve, and accelerate our action to reach net zero.” A big part of this will be clearly communicating to society the need for and benefits of acting now.   

The technologies needed are already available. Much of the heavy lifting in Ireland’s net zero transition will be done by deploying technologies that are already commercially available. Electricity (16% of Ireland’s GHG emissions) will be produced from onshore wind, offshore wind, and solar. Short-term matching of demand and supply can be achieved through demand-side response and the deployment of batteries and zero-carbon system services. Electric vehicles and heat pumps can eliminate most of our transport and heating emissions, which currently represent 40% of Ireland’s total emissions. It will be essential for all stakeholders across the system to focus on rapidly deploying these technologies.   

Videos of all Accelerate keynote speakers and panels are available to view here.  

Looking to the future 

The conclusion was clear: we must build a resilient net zero energy system to support an expanding economy and growing population, and to mitigate the impact of geopolitical instability.  Ireland’s vast renewables potential can be the backbone of this system, with offshore wind in particular playing a significant role. If developed at scale, renewable electricity will support new jobs, for example in technology or pharmaceuticals, and provide security of supply. Moreover, the conversion of electricity to hydrogen will be an important element of this new system, providing cover for prolonged periods of low renewables output. Time is of the essence: it is essential that we put the foundations in place now to make this vision reality.     

ESB speakers on the day shared progress and challenges from our own journey, underlining the vital importance of achieving our target of net zero by 2040. By eliminating our own emissions and enabling the broader energy transition across society, we are committed to helping Ireland deliver on its 2050 net zero goal. 

Our new Net Zero Pathway report sets out how we will get there – read it here.