Coal generated up to a quarter of Irish electricity demand last month at peak times, possibly boosting the State’s carbon emissions, official figures show.
Low wind speeds and power plant closures increased the Republic's reliance on coal to generate electricity, according to State company Gas Networks Ireland (GNI).
Its figures show that 12 per cent of electricity supplies last month came from burning coal, while the fossil fuel actually accounted for 25 per cent of needs at peak times.
Increased reliance on coal to generate electricity will hit the State’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as burning the fuel produces high quantities of carbon dioxide.
Coal and peat combined accounted for 8 per cent of all electricity generated in 2019.
Industry figures calculate that burning enough coal to generate a megawatt (MW) hour of electricity produces 950kg carbon dioxide. Natural gas emissions are about 40 per cent of that.
However, the ESB-owned Moneypoint power plant, which is the Republic's only coal-fired electricity generator, has fitted systems to help reduce carbon emissions.
Electricity peak-time demand in July ranged from 4,264MW to a high of 5,280MW, according to national grid operator EirGrid.
The temporary shutdown of two natural gas-fired generating plants, in Cork and Dublin, contributed to the increased reliance on coal, said GNI.
Their owners, Bord Gáis Energy and Energia, expect both to return to action this autumn.
Low wind speeds were also a factor. GNI said that wind, the Republic’s main source of renewable power, contributed 11.8 per cent of electricity in July, with that falling to less than 1 per cent at times.
Challenge facing State
GNI, responsible for the network of pipelines and systems that transport natural gas around Ireland, said that fuel provided 56 per cent of electricity in July, hitting 73 per cent at peak.
Its head of regulatory affairs Brian Mullins said this month's International Panel on Climate Change report highlighted the challenge facing the State.
“Moving away from fossil fuel to renewable alternatives, such as biomethane and hydrogen, is a key priority for our business and for the people of Ireland,” he said.
Mr Mullins added that GNI was working to ensure its system would be able to transport hydrogen, when that greener fuel becomes widely available.
The company is already transmitting small quantities of biomethane produced from farm waste.
A spokesman for the Department of Climate said Moneypoint would close in 2025.
He predicted that the factors that boosted coal consumption in July would change in coming months as the power plants restarted.
“Coupled with increased winter-wind levels, this should reduce overall coal-fired generation requirements,” he said.