Ireland is falling behind targets to reduce carbon emissions

Despite ongoing shift to renewable energy, emissions only came down by 1.8% in 2018

Demand for electricity increased by 2 per cent in 2018. The majority of electricity generated came from gas, followed by wind and then coal and peat

Demand for electricity increased by 2 per cent in 2018. The majority of electricity generated came from gas, followed by wind and then coal and peat

 

A shift to renewable energy is ongoing in the Irish economy, according to the latest figures issued by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). However, there is a continuing failure to achieve reductions in carbon emissions.

A small reduction of 1.8 per cent in emissions during 2018 is not enough to bridge a gap on EU targets, the authority concludes in its 2019 national energy projections report published on Thursday. The report tracks Ireland’s progress towards 2030 and 2050 emissions targets. The shortfall will see Ireland incurring compliance costs from 2020.

There has been a significant increase in renewable energy in Ireland. The SEAI forecasts that approximately 13 per cent of the State’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020.

Commitments

The reduction in carbon emissions is the equivalent to taking 1.6 million cars off the road but falls short on legally binding commitments. There is still a significant way to go to achieving Ireland’s EU target of 16 per cent by 2020, it confirms.

The provisional figures showing emissions from energy (including heat, electricity and transport) indicate the emissions reduction was mainly due to a once-off outage at Moneypoint power station, which resulted in a significant reduction in coal use for electricity generation, and an increased contribution from renewable energy sources, notably wind and natural gas.

As a country we must continue to make progress on energy efficiency across all sectors

Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton said the SEAI projections underlined the need to create a new policy roadmap, which will inject momentum into the task of tackling climate disruption.

“We know that a significant step is required to decarbonise our energy supply, especially in the heat sector, which has been a particular challenge. Renewable electricity has performed relatively well, but we will be pushing ourselves further in the policies and actions outlined in the upcoming [whole of government] plan,” he added.

SEAI chief executive Jim Gannon said: “As a country we must continue to make progress on energy efficiency across all sectors and rapidly increase the adoption of renewables across heating, electricity and transport, if we are serious about reducing Ireland’s carbon emissions.”

Contributing to the shortfall on the renewable energy target was an under-performance on renewable heat. Ireland placed 26th out of the 28 member states for renewable energy for heat. For almost all member states, the share of renewable heat is the most important factor influencing the share of overall renewable energy.

Challenges

Ireland has specific challenges in the heating sector, Mr Gannon noted. “Progress on this would be crucial to meet the overall renewable energy targets and will be promoted by recent announcements including the support scheme for renewable heat, and work to deliver district heating networks in Ireland.

“Alongside increased efficiency, we need to make urgent progress on renewable heat in both the residential and commercial sector, as this will be a key element in reaching our targets. We also need to work collectively on promoting ways of travel that are less carbon-intensive, such as cycling, walking and public transport, as well electric vehicles for private car use and commercial fleets,” he added.

Development of Irish sources of renewable energy could create local jobs and encourage inward investment and was essential to support the transition to a sustainable economy.

“Harnessing Ireland’s ocean energy resources, and in particular delivering on the natural resource that we have in offshore wind, will be key to achieving targets for 2030 and beyond,” Mr Gannon said.

Separate figures released by the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) show wind provided a record 37 per cent of Ireland’s electricity in the first quarter of 2019. IWEA chief executive Dr David Connolly said: “We had a very strong start to the year for wind energy, particularly in February, when wind energy produced the most electricity, even surpassing natural gas, so we hope to build on this in the coming months.”

Wind energy is driving down electricity costs for consumers, cutting millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions every year “and securing a homegrown energy future that doesn’t depend on importing fossil fuels”, said Dr Connolly.

The SEAI forecasts that approximately 13 per cent of the State’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020.
The SEAI forecasts that approximately 13 per cent of the State’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020.

Energy use

In 2018 energy use grew by 0.7 per cent and energy CO2 emissions fell by 1.8 per cent. The fall in emissions was due to reductions in coal and peat use, mainly in electricity generation, along with increased contribution from renewable energy sources.

Natural gas use grew by 3.8 per cent and accounted for 31 per cent of all energy used. It is used mainly for industrial processes, heating of homes and businesses and electricity.

Coal use fell by 32 per cent in 2018, with Moneypoint electricity generating station being offline for approximately three months towards the end of the year. Coal accounted for 5.2 per cent of all energy use in 2018, down from 7.6 per cent in 2017.

Peat use fell by 3.8 per cent and accounted for 4.7 per cent of all energy use.

Oil use increased by 1 per cent in 2018 and accounted for 48 per cent of all energy use. It is used mainly in the transport sector and for household heating. Import dependency increased slightly in 2018 to 67 per cent from 66 per cent in 2017. Gas imports increased by 23 per cent and mostly offset reduced coal imports, which fell by 32 per cent. Indigenous gas production was down by 3.6 per cent also.

Sixty-one per cent of natural gas use in Ireland in 2018 came from indigenous sources compared with 66 per cent in 2017.

Electricity generation

Demand for electricity increased by 2 per cent in 2018. The majority of electricity generated came from gas, followed by wind and then coal and peat.

Coal and peat use in electricity generation were down by 44 per cent and 3 per cent respectively between 2017 and 2018.

Natural gas input to electricity generation increased by 1.9 per cent while the contribution from wind increased by 12.7 per cent (81 ktoe), biomass by 35 per cent and wastes by 106 per cent.

The CO2 intensity of electricity fell by 13 per cent to a new low.

Renewable electricity increased to 33.2 per cent (30.1 per cent in 2017). Figures for renewable heat and transport will be available later in the year.