Energy in Ireland describes energy and electricity production, consumption and importing in the Republic of Ireland.
The Department of Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources (Irish: An Roinn Cumarsáide, Athrú Aeráide agus Achmhainní Nádúrtha) is a department of the Government of Ireland that is responsible for the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors and regulates, protects and develops the natural resources of Ireland. The head of the department is the Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources who is assisted by one Minister of State.
The Department of Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources oversees the formulation and implementation of policies concerning Ireland's coal, gas, peat, oil, electricity and renewable energy supply. The department strives to protect Ireland's energy supply, generation, security, affordability and sustainability, and to ensure that Ireland complies with international energy and climate change policies.
Ireland is a net energy importer. Ireland’s import dependency decreased to 85% in 2014 (from 89% in 2013). The cost of all energy imports to Ireland was approximately €5.7 billion, down from €6.5 billion (revised) in 2013 due mainly to falling oil and, to a lesser extent, gas import prices.
Energy-related CO2 emissions decreased by 1.2% in 2014 and now stand at 17% above 1990 levels. When compared with 2005 energy-related CO2 emissions have fallen by 23%.
Consumption of all fuels fell in 2014 with the exception of peat, renewables and non-renewable wastes.
Final consumption of electricity in 2014 was 24 TWh. Electricity demand which peaked in 2008 has since returned to 2004 levels. Renewable electricity generation, consisting of wind, hydro, landfill gas, biomass and biogas, accounted for 22.7% of gross electricity consumption.
The use of renewables in electricity generation in 2014 reduced CO2 emissions by 2.6 Mt. In 2014, wind generation accounted for 18.2% of electricity generated and as such was the second largest source of electricity generation after natural gas.
The carbon intensity of electricity fell by 49% since 1990 to a new low of 457 g CO2/kWh in 2014.
Ireland is connected to the adjacent UK National Grid at an electricity interconnection level of 9% (transmission capacity relative to production capacity). In 2016, Ireland and France agreed to advance the planning of the Celtic Interconnector, which if realized will provide the two countries with a 700 MW transmission capacity by 2025.
There have been four commercial natural gas discoveries since exploration began offshore Ireland in the early 1970s; namely the Kinsale Head, Ballycotton and Seven Heads producing gas fields off the coast of Cork and the Corrib gas field off the coast of Mayo.
The main natural gas/Fossil gas fields in Ireland are the Corrib gas project and Kinsale Head gas field. Neither field is a large contributor to Ireland's supply requirements. In 2014 Ireland presently sources about 70% of its electricity from fossil gas, with 95% of the supply coming from overseas.
The Corrib Gas Field was discovered off the west coast of Ireland in 1996. Approximately 70% of the size of the Kinsale Head field, it has an estimated producing life of just over 15 years. The Corrib Gas Field is operated by Shell Exploration & Production Ireland on behalf of the Corrib Partners (Shell Exploration & Production Ireland Limited, Statoil Exploration (Ireland) Limite and Vermilion Resources (Ireland) Limited).
Ireland uses peat, a fuel composed of decayed plants and other organic matter which is usually found in swampy lowlands known as bogs, as energy which is not common in Europe. Peat in Ireland is used for two main purposes – to generate electricity and as a fuel for domestic heating. The raised bogs in Ireland are located mainly in the midlands.
Bord na Móna is a commercial semi-state company that was established under the Turf Development Act 1946. The company is responsible for the mechanised harvesting of peat in Ireland.
There are 3 peat fuelled power plants operational in Ireland – these are Edenderry (operated by Bord na Móna), West Offaly and Lough Ree (both operated by ESB Power Generation). Bord na Móna has been co-firing peat with biomass at Edenderry for more than 5 years.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), under the remit of the Minister for Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, deals with Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas under the Habitats Directive. Restrictions have been imposed on the harvesting of peat in certain areas under relevant designations.
Coal remains an important solid fuel that is still used in home heating by a certain portion of households. In order to improve air quality, certain areas are banned from burning so-called ‘smoky coal.’ The regulations and policy relating to smoky fuel are dealt with by the Minister for Environment.
Ireland has a single coal-fired power plant at Moneypoint, Co. Clare which is operated by ESB Power Generation. At 915MW output, it is one of Ireland’s largest power stations. The station was originally built in the 1980s as part of a fuel diversity strategy and was significantly refurbished during the 2000s to make it fit for purpose in terms of environmental regulations and standards. Moneypoint is considered to have a useful life until at least 2025.
There have been no commercial discoveries of oil in Ireland to date.
One Irish oil explorer is Providence Resources, with CEO Tony O'Reilly, Junior and among the main owners Tony O'Reilly with a 40% stake.
A Compressed air energy storage project in salt caverns near Larne has received €15m of funding from EU. It is intended to provide a 250-330 MW buffer for 6-8 hours in the electricity system.
The Minister for Finance introduced, with effect from 1 May 2013, a solid fuel carbon tax (SFCT). The Revenue Commissioners have responsibility for administering the tax. It applies to coal and peat and is chargeable per tonne of product.
As of 2016, Ireland has around 3,000 MegaWatts of wind power, and 1 MW of solar power.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have responsibility for the Forest Service and forestry policy in Ireland. Coillte (a commercial state company operating in forestry, land based businesses, renewable energy and panel products) and Coford (the Council for Forest Research and Development) also fall under that Department’s remit.
Wood is used by households that rely on solid fuels for home heating. It is used in open fireplaces, stoves and biomass boilers.
In 2014, the Department of Communications, Climate Change & Natural Resources produced a draft bioenergy strategy. In compiling the strategy, the Department worked closely with the Department of Agriculture in terms of the potential of sustainable wood biomass for energy purposes.
Ireland has set a national target to reduce energy demand by 20% of the historic average energy use during the period 2000–2005 through energy efficiency measures. The current suite of measures is described in detail in Ireland’s National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) and annual reports. A binding EU target for renewable energy use is also established. 16% of final energy use and 10% of energy use in the transport sector must be derived from renewable sources by 2020. In order to achieve Ireland’s overall renewable energy target, national sub-targets have also been set in the end-use sectors of heat (12%) and electricity (40%). Ireland, along with Denmark and Luxembourg, has the most challenging target for greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the EU; Ireland’s target is to achieve 20% lower than the 2005 greenhouse gas emissions levels by 2020. Achieving Ireland’s energy targets will help meet its binding EU greenhouse gas emissions target in heat and transport, but does not guarantee it. Emissions targets also include emissions from agriculture and waste disposal; such emissions currently account for 35% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions, with energy-related emissions accounting for the remainder.
Ireland is, on average, just over half way towards meeting its 2020 renewable energy target, with 8.6% of gross final consumption derived from renewables in 2014.
The contribution of renewables to gross final consumption (GFC) was 8.6% in 2014. This compares to a target of 16% to be achieved by 2020. This avoided 3.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and €346 million of fossil fuel imports.
The average emissions of new cars purchased in 2014 was 117.5 g CO2/km, which is below the EU target for car manufacturers of 130 g CO2/km to be reached by 2015.
Energy-related CO2 emissions in those sectors outside the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (which covers transport, heating in households, buildings and small industry) were 21% below 2005 levels in 2014.
Since 2003 approximately 190 wind farms, connected across 24 counties, have been installed, equating to 2,375 MW of renewable electricity capacity. These wind farms have been instrumental in driving achievement of 22.7% renewable penetration by end 2014.
Between 200 MW and 250 MW of additional wind capacity must be installed every year to 2020. Approximately 270 MW of wind capacity was installed in 2014. Average installed capacity over the last five years has been 177 MW.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland was established as Ireland's national energy authority under the Sustainable Energy Act 2002. SEAI's mission is to play a leading role in transforming Ireland into a society based on sustainable energy structures, technologies and practices. To fulfil this mission SEAI aims to provide well-timed and informed advice to Government, and deliver a range of programmes efficiently and effectively, while engaging and motivating a wide range of stakeholders and showing continuing flexibility and innovation in all activities. SEAI's actions will help advance Ireland to the vanguard of the global green technology movement, so that Ireland is recognised as a pioneer in the move to decarbonised energy systems.
While the production of electricity for the Irish national grid, by nuclear fission, is legally prohibited by Ireland under Electricity Regulation Act, 1999 (Section 18), the enforcement of this prohibition is naturally only possible within the borders of Ireland. Since 2012 and the completion of the electric grid interconnection between the island of Great Britain and Ireland, the Irish grid can now be partly powered by overseas nuclear fission stations.