Coal doubles share of Irish power generation as wind falls

Gas remains the backbone of Ireland’s energy mix, generating 46% of electricity

Ireland's reliance on coal for energy more than doubled last year, while wind's share of electricity generation fell, according to Gas Networks Ireland.

Gas remained the backbone of Ireland’s energy mix in 2021, generating 46 per cent of the Republic’s electricity, and 43 per cent on an all-island basis. That was three percentages points down when compared with 2020 at a time overall demand fell by 4.7 per cent. Gas Networks Ireland said this was due to greater than anticipated maintenance across a number of power plants.

It also cited the continued impact of Covid-19 restrictions and relatively milder weather conditions as having played a role.

But gas remained the primary source of electricity in 2021, with wind’s share of electricity generation falling from 35 per cent in 2020 to 29 per cent last year.


Coal’s share of electricity generation’s climbed from 5 per cent in 2020 to 11 per cent in 2021.

At their peak, gas and wind powered up to 82 per cent and 77 per cent of Ireland’s electricity needs respectively.

The intermittent nature of wind saw it drop lower than 1 per cent at times, while the contribution of gas didn’t drop below 10 per cent during 2021. Coal provided as much as 29 per cent of generation.

Commercial transport

With the opening of two more compressed natural gas (CNG) fuelling stations in 2021, demand for gas as an alternative to diesel in the commercial transport sector was up 78 per cent year-on-year with further growth expected in this market in 2022.

There were also notable increases in demand in sectors such as retail (+18 per cent), construction (+16 per cent), laundry (+13 per cent), leisure (+13 per cent) and air travel (+10 per cent) as Covid-19 restrictions eased during the year.

"During 2021, gas and wind generation continued to dominate Ireland's sources of electricity, collectively delivering 77 per cent of Ireland's electricity supplies, or 72 per cent on an all-island basis," said Brian Mullins, Gas Networks Ireland's head of regulatory affairs.

“The responsiveness, flexibility and availability of gas makes it the ideal partner for renewables like wind. The amount of electricity generated by coal rose by 6 per cent in 2021, compensating for maintenance at gas-fired power plants and less wind generation.

“As natural gas produces 40 per cent less CO2 than coal, replacing coal-fired power plants with gas-fired power plants would deliver significant and immediate emissions reductions.

“Having the reliability of ‘always on’ gas to be the constant back-up supporting intermittent renewables, means that when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, our homes, businesses and vital services can depend on gas to help keep the lights on.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter