Ireland can get over ‘challenge’ of oil dependence, says Eamon Ryan

Environmentally positive changes can help families counter rising prices, says Minister

Maintaining oil and diesel supplies, rather than gas, poses the most immediate energy risk for Ireland arising from the continuing war in Ukraine, according to Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan.

Ireland was less exposed to gas supply vulnerabilities because it most of it supplies were coming from the UK and Norway, unlike some EU countries which depend mostly on Russian gas, he said on Thursday.

Speaking at the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s Energy Show run at the RDS, the Minister added: “Ireland’s gas insecurity... is not the same as the problem they have in Germany or Austria where they are absolutely exposed. Where we do have an exposure, immediately, is in some of the oil markets.”

He cited International Energy Agency analysis presented last week and repeated on Monday highlighting oil supply, particularly diesel, issues as a “a real challenge because of what’s happening in Russia and Ukraine”. Gas was probably a more medium-term issue for Ireland, Mr Ryan said.


On the issue of liquified natural gas (LNG) Mr Ryan, who has responsibility for energy, said Ireland was in a different position to many other European countries, with less than 3 per cent of its gas coming from Russia.

The vast majority of it came from the UK and Norway with a dedicated supply network different to that in Europe. “The connectivity from the UK to the European markets is very limited,” he noted.

On Fine Gael’s insistence LNG should be left on the table, Mr Ryan said he would never rule anything out at a time of crisis in energy supplies. That included commercial LNG and State-run LNG facilities - as well as nuclear, if shown to be economic and viable, he said.

While LNG was being pursued by countries looking at alternatives to Russian gas supply, it was not “the great saviour” for Ireland in switching over, he said.

The bigger issue internationally, he believed, was adoption of hydrogen as an alternative gas with strong indications this could be achieved within a 10-year timeframe.

In Ireland’s case, the Minister said it would be produced from wind and exported but also be deployed in power generation, industry and transport.

While in Berlin on Wednesday “the mood changed almost by the hour in trying to anticipate what Putin was going to do on oil and gas supplies into Europe”, he noted. Regardless of when the war would end, Europe was going to end reliance on Russian coal, oil and gas and “long supply chains” for energy, he underlined.

“As a country, which is highly dependent on imported oil and gas, [WE]have to make that switch. We are going to throw the kitchen sink at it, and then, after that, the sofa, to make sure there’s a just transition...and that we give ourselves long-term stability.”

Mr Ryan said it was impossible to protect against all energy price rises. A five-fold increase in gas prices had impacted on electricity prices as 40 per cent of power generation was using gas. While the ESB hedged on gas prices last year, that could only provide certainty over a limited period.

The Government was looking a series of further measures to protect consumers with the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU). This could include use of smart meters with mandatory time of day pricing to encourage people to turn on their washing machine or dishwasher after 9pm rather than at more expensive peak times.


Asked if he would expect a backlash on such a move as it would make prices higher in the early evening, he said: “I don’t see why it would because it does help the consumer to save money at this time. And that’s obviously in everyone’s mind. It’s only one of a whole list of measures that we were discussing with CRU and we will advance in the coming weeks.”

He accepted the ESB and other recent energy price increases were “a necessity”. As a public company, Mr Ryan said the ESB was critical to the energy transition, especially in ensuring connections to renewables were provided “at scale, at speed”.

Despite current energy problems, he said there was cause for hope, reflected in an almost three-fold increase in public applications for SEAI programmes ranging from the installation of solar PV on rooftops and installing heat pumps to getting EV chargers and retrofitting houses.

“The public are absolutely tied into this project now, and looking to see how they can reduce their bills, improve their homes, play their bit in the climate challenge and giving economic and energy security to our country,” he said.

It was not going to be easy and would take time but some measures could be implemented quickly, such as insulating cavity walls and attics, which could bring a 25 per cent saving for the average home. At a time when Electric Ireland had increased prices by 25 per cent, “that is a very obvious response; a way we can protect ourselves”, he added.

Notwithstanding supply chain difficulties, Mr Ryan said EV rollout was accelerating while Ireland was one of the first countries to provide nationwide charging infrastructure, and it was being recognised as a leader in retrofitting with the first of what he hoped would be many retrofitting one-stop shops being launched next week.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times