Ireland needs 'urgent action' to address fossil-fuel reliance

Ireland needs 'urgent action' to address fossil-fuel reliance

Ireland faces an "urgent need for action" to address reliance on fossil fuels which account for more than 90% of all energy use here.

The annual Energy in Ireland report from Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) outlines the latest national data and trends on energy use and renewable energy in Ireland.

It shows that the country continues to face a challenge in reducing reliance on fossil fuels for transport, heating and electricity production, with more than 90% of all energy used in 2017 here coming from fossil fuels.

Indigenous energy production here reached its highest ever level in 2017. This is due to the Corrib gas field coming on stream in 2016. As a result, indigenous natural gas production also reached its highest level in 2017. However, the SEAI said the level of production from the Corrib field to taper off significantly from 2020.

As a result of increased energy production, our import dependency reduced to 66%. Between 2000 and 2015 our energy import dependency was approximately 90%.

Transport continues to dominate Ireland’s energy use, with a share of 42.9% of final consumption in 2017. Transport energy use increased by 2% in 2017. The average emissions of new cars purchased in 2017 was 112.7g CO2/km, up slightly on 2016. From 2020 onwards, the EU has set a target of 95g CO2/km for the average emissions of the new car fleet.

While residential energy use fell by 2.9%., it actually showed a marginal increase when adjusted for weather. In 2017 the average household emitted 5.1 tonnes of CO2. 63% of this came from direct fuel use in the home and the remainder from electricity use. This is down from 8.4 tonnes in 2005. Industrial energy use increased by 3.4% in 2017.

Oil remains the dominant energy source - making up 48% of the country's total energy requirement. However, coal use decreased by 20% in 2017. Since 2005, the use of coal has fallen by 42%. Peat use fell by 5.3%.

The report also shows that the country is making progress. For example, the total renewable energy increased by 19%. The overall share of renewables in primary energy was 8%, down from 8.3% in 2015.

Hydro and wind increased by 1.6% and 21% respectively. Biomass use increased by 13.2%, while other renewables increased by 27%.

Chief executive of SEAI Jim Gannon said the report shows the need for "urgent action" to address our reliance on fossil fuels.

"Despite some areas of good performance in 2017, the bottom line is that we need to accelerate the pace of change. Collectively and individually, we need to use less as we take greater advantage of the renewable energy available to us here in Ireland," he said.

Mr Gannon said there needs to be "a rapid transition from diesel and petrol to electric vehicles".

"Government-funded incentives of varying types have driven a rapid growth in electric car sales, doubling year on year since 2015. Ireland’s geographical extent makes it well suited to electric cars and, while not every driver can switch in the short term, we must ensure that it is considered a real option for the majority of new car purchases from now on."

"A transition to a largely electrified passenger fleet, along with the consideration of alternative fuels for commercial, public transport and freight is essential," he said.

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