Provisional energy figures for 2015, published by the Republic of Ireland’s Sustainable Energy Authority (SEAI), show mixed results in terms of the country’s attempts to reduce its dependency upon carbon based fuels. The Republic’s overall energy use and related CO2 emissions both increased by roughly 5%. While lower than last year’s rate of economic growth at c.8% it signals what SEAI describes as a ‘re-coupling of energy and economic growth’. In the same period the country’s use of renewables for power, heat and transport increased by 13%.
The competing forces of the Irish energy system were particularly evident in the power generation sector. On the one hand, wind generated electricity increased by 28%, accounting for over one fifth of all electricity in 2015. However this was offset by increased use of coal and peat in non-renewable electricity generation and a reduction in total electricity imports. The net effect was a marginal increase in the carbon intensity of electricity generation.
Commenting on the figures Dr Eimear Cotter, SEAI Head of Low Carbon Technologies says, “These figures show the complexity of our energy system and the interplay of economic growth, renewable energy deployment and fossil fuel prices.
“Progress made in renewable energy deployment could be easily undone if we fail to decouple energy use from economic growth and accelerate the move away from fossil fuels, in particular high emissions-intensive fuels such as coal and peat. We need continued progress in energy efficiency in our homes and businesses and an increase in the use of renewables across all technologies in our energy system”.
Despite significant growth in renewable heating installations, the Republic of Ireland remains highly dependent upon heating oil – especially in rural areas.