The national gas network powered more than half of the State’s electricity requirements last year, but there were significant reductions in usage observed across construction, hotels, travel, and leisure as the impact of Covid-19 restrictions was felt.
The figures from Gas Networks Ireland on Monday show gas is still the dominant player in the Irish electricity market with pressure for renewable energy on the rise. Demand for gas peaked at more than 85 per cent in August.
Wind supplied 36.7 per cent of electricity and coal and peat a combined 7.9 per cent, prior to Ireland’s remaining peat plants ceasing operation in December.
Overall gas demand was largely stable in a year of economic turbulence, with a small drop of 0.3 per cent of total demand largely down to reductions in some commercial sectors due to Covid 19.
Significant reductions in gas usage were observed across construction (-25 per cent), hotels (-11 per cent), travel (-24 per cent), leisure (-36 per cent) and laundry (-35 per cent) as the impact of national Covid-19 restrictions was felt across Ireland during the bulk of 2020.
However, a number of sectors experienced increased gas demand. As work and commerce moved online, data centres played an increasingly important role in keeping the economy going and society engaged. This was reflected in a 27 per cent increase in gas demand in that sector.
It was a similar story among health-related industries, with pharmaceuticals (+5 per cent), medical devices (+2.5 per cent) and hospitals (+2.4 per cent) stepping up to support the country through the pandemic.
Gas demand from the food and beverage sector remained resilient during the early months of the year but fell off in the last quarter in the run up to Brexit to close out the year on par with 2019.
Despite more than 8,000 new connections to the gas network in 2020, overall residential and small business gas demand fell 3.8 per cent in 2020, as milder weather reduced demand for heating in homes and SME businesses.
Gas demand in transport continued to climb, as compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle numbers increased 50 per cent and Ireland’s second publicly accessible CNG station opened at Circle K’s Cashel station.
In total 58.69TWh of gas was used in 2020. Approximately 34 per cent of gas supplies came from Corrib, under 2 per cent from Kinsale prior to its closure in May and nearly 64 per cent imported through the gas interconnectors to Scotland.
“Ireland’s national gas network continues to be the backbone of Ireland’s energy system,” said Gas Networks Ireland’s head of regulatory affairs Brian Mullins.
“Most importantly, gas is there to respond immediately and power up when renewable sources fluctuate. As electricity demand continues to increase, so too will the demand and need for gas.
“This increased demand has already been seen in the opening weeks of 2021, where gas demand has come close to record levels on a number of days.
“These high demand levels are being seen without schools and while tourism and hospitality and many business sectors are affected by Covid-19 restrictions nationally.”