Ireland's Energy Use 1990-2015

  • Ireland’s energy import dependency increased to 88% in 2015 (from 85% in 2014). The cost of all energy imports to Ireland was approximately €4.6 billion, down from €5.7 billion in 2014 due mainly to falling oil and gas import prices.
  • Energy-related emissions account for approximately 60% of Ireland’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • Energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 5.8% in 2015. When compared with 2005, energy-related CO2 emissions have fallen by 19%.
  • Transport continues to dominate as the largest energy consuming sector, with a share of 42% in 2015.
  • Transport energy use increased by 5.9% in 2015, with air travel showing the strongest growth in energy use of the transport modes, with a 13% increase on 2014.
  • More than three quarters (78%) of all new private cars purchased to date in 2016 were in the A label emissions band.
  • In 2015 industry energy use increased by 4.8%, and was 10% lower than the peak in 2006.
  • Residential energy use increased by 5.2% in 2015 relative to 2014. When corrected for weather effects – 2015 was a colder year than 2014 – the increase in energy use was 3.5%.
  • In 2015 the average household emitted 5.5 tonnes of CO2 of which 61% came from direct fuel use in the home and the remainder from electricity use (SEAI, 2016).

Non-renewable energy use in Ireland

  • Natural Gas

There have been four commercial natural gas discoveries since exploration began offshore Ireland in the early 1970s; namely the Kinsale Head, Ballycotton and Seven Heads producing gas fields off the coast of Cork and the Corrib gas field off the coast of Mayo (DCCAE, 2018). The main natural gas/fossil gas fields in Ireland are the Corrib gas project and Kinsale Head gas field. The Corrib Gas field is expected to meet 77% of the Ireland’s annual gas demand when in commercial production. While Corrib will greatly enhance Ireland’s security of supply in the short-term, in the medium-to-long-term, post 2020, Ireland is likely to remain largely dependent on imported natural gas to meet demand.

  • Peat

Peat in Ireland is used for two main purposes – to generate electricity and as a fuel for domestic heating. Raised bogs, from which peat is largely derived in Ireland, are located mainly in the midlands.

Bord na Móna is a commercial semi-state company that was established under the Turf Development Act 1946, and is responsible for the mechanised harvesting of peat in Ireland. Currently, there are 3 peat burning electricity plants operational in Ireland – these are Edenderry (operated by Bord na Móna), West Offaly and Lough Ree (both operated by ESB Power Generation). Bord na Móna has been co-firing peat with biomass at Edenderry for more than 5 years.

  • Coal

Coal remains an important solid fuel that is still used in home heating by certain households. In order to improve air quality, households in certain urban areas are currently banned from burning so-called ‘smoky coal.’ This ban is being introduced nationwide in 2019.

Ireland has a single coal-fired power plant at Moneypoint, Co. Clare which is operated by ESB Power Generation. At 915MW output, it is one of Ireland’s largest power stations. Moneypoint is considered to have a useful life until at least 2025 (DCCAE, 2018).

  • Oil

There have been no commercial discoveries of oil in Ireland to date, and as such, Ireland is a net importer of oil.

  • Carbon Tax

With effect from 1 May 2013, a solid fuel carbon tax has been introduced in Ireland, which applies to coal and peat and is chargeable per tonne of product.

Renewable Energy Use in Ireland

  • Wind Energy

To date, wind energy has been the most significant source of renewable electricity in Ireland. Installed wind capacity has increased to 2,851 MW across the island of Ireland. However, if we are to reach our 2020 renewable electricity target, build rates of onshore wind farms must increase from a current average of 180 MW per year to at least 250 MW per year. The growth of wind energy demands modernisation and expansion of the electricity grid. Ireland continues to face challenges inherent to successfully further implementing renewable energy in electricity, heat and transport, including predictable and transparent frameworks, regulatory certainty, cost efficiency and effectiveness and social acceptance.

  • Solar PV

Solar PV installed capacity in Ireland is amongst the lowest in Europe. It was just over 2MW in 2015. In the same year the corresponding figure for the United Kingdom was 8,915 MW. In 2015, Ireland had the lowest capacity per inhabitant of all EU countries, with only Latvia having a lower absolute capacity. Predictions for future growth in installed capacity vary widely from 500 MW by 2021 to 3,700 MW by 2030 through government investment.

  • Biomass

Biomass comes from living or recently living organic material. The primary source is plant material such as trees, crops and grass. Animals that directly or indirectly consume plants are also considered as biomass. Approximately 3.5% of the energy we use in Ireland comes from Irish grown biomass. There is significant potential for this to increase. By 2035, the SEAI predicts that the bioenergy potential is close to 30% of 2015 energy demand.

  • Hydro-electricity

Hydro electricity in 2015 accounted for 2.5% of Ireland’s gross electrical consumption. In Ireland, the biggest dammed power stations (over 20MW) are Ardnacrusha on the River Shannon, Ballyshannon on the River Erne and Poulaphuca on the Blessington Lakes.

  • Waste to Energy

There are currently two municipal waste-to-energy plants in Ireland, one based in Duleek, Co. Meath, and a second in Poolbeg, Dublin. The facility in Duleek is operational since 2011 and manages 200,000 tonnes of residual waste per annum with a capacity to generate 17 MW of electricity. In 2015, 151 GWh of electricity was produced from waste incineration at the facility. The incinerator in Poolbeg has a capacity to treat at least 600,000 tonnes per annum of non-hazardous municipal and industrial waste. This will generate electricity for at least 80,000 homes, and potentially provide district heating to the equivalent of another 50,000 homes. More information on the Poolbeg Waste-to-Energy facility can be found here.

Renewable Energy Targets

The target for Ireland under EU Directive 2009/28/EC is a 16% share of renewable energy in renewable energy by 2020. The Directive requires each Member State to adopt a national renewable energy action plan (NREAP) to set out Member States’ national targets for the share of energy from renewable sources consumed in transport, electricity and heating in 2020 that will ensure delivery of the overall renewable energy target. These sectoral targets are electricity, transport and heat respectively. This will be met by 40% from renewable electricity, 12% from renewable heat and 10% from the renewable transport sector (DCCAE, 2018). In relation to the displacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy, it is estimated that in 2015 approximately €286 million in fossil fuel imports were avoided, of which €233 million was avoided by wind generation.

The contribution from renewables in 1990 was 2.3%, rising to 9.1% in 2015. Based on current results, Ireland is therefore approximately half way to achieving its renewable energy targets by 2020 under the EU Directive.

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