Energy use rise reinforces energy security and climate concerns

13 May 2022

Ireland’s energy security concerns were reinforced last week when the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) published its figures for the country’s Interim Energy Balance 2021. According to the latest figures, Ireland’s energy use increased by 4.3% on 2020’s usage, where energy use decreased largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ongoing war in Ukraine and dialogue at the European level has placed a sharp emphasis on the importance of increasing energy security, and shoring up supply. Be that via the EU Energy Platform for the common purchase of gas, LNG, and hydrogen, or in the Irish context, by implementing the actions of the recently published national framework on energy security.

Undoubtedly, energy security is pivotal for economic stability and growth, and indigenous energy sources in particular are inevitably more secure than imported energy. Ireland is ideally placed in this regard, given the country’s abundance of wind resources and potential for generating, and possibly exporting, renewable energy in the form of green hydrogen.

Yet, thus far, Ireland has proven unable to fully take advantage of these indigenous resources as is seen by the resistance to offshore and onshore wind projects. As a result, according to the SEAI, the country imported 77% of its energy supply in 2021, up from 72.1% in 2020, driven in part by the Corrib gas-field’s decreasing capacity and resulting need to import natural gas.

In contrast, although Ireland’s renewable energy is almost entirely indigenous (91.5%), the share of energy supply that came from renewable energy decreased from 13.3% in 2020 to 11.8% in 2021. Meanwhile, fossil fuels, the importing of which are the main cause behind Ireland’s energy security concerns, accounted for 86.2% of supply share in 2021, up from 85.7% in 2020.

Not only does Ireland’s poor performance in 2021 impact Ireland’s energy security, but it has also impacted the State’s long-term climate targets. While the Climate Change Advisory Council’s (CCAC) all-sector 2021-2025 carbon budgets call for a 4.8% annual reduction in CO2, excluding international aviation, Ireland emitted 33.9Mt of energy related CO2 in 2021, an increase of 6.1% on 2020’s figures. When international aviation is included, CO2 emissions increased by 6.3%. This increase was driven by increased oil consumption, and increased use of fossil fuels for electricity generation. CO2 emissions from which, i.e. electricity generation, increased by 16.9% in 2021.

Speaking of the figures, Margie McCarthy, director of research and policy insights at the SEAI noted that the “emissions in 2021 are clear signals of how important it is to deliver the actions identified in our national Climate Action Plan, without delay.” She also stressed the urgency around making “the shift away from fossil fuels to renewables much quicker to ensure a clean and secure supply of energy.” According to the SEAI, Ireland must step up in 2022 and beyond to deliver on its key climate actions and deliver greater energy security for its companies and its people.