Energy use increases despite economic downturn

ENERGY use has increased despite Ireland’s economic slowdown, a report from Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) reveals.

Rising energy use in buildings pushed up overall energy demand by 1.5% last year despite a 3% contraction in the economy over the same period.

The Energy in Ireland 1990-2008 report shows that a return to normal weather conditions last year after a mild year in 2007 was blamed for the 8.8% increase in residential energy use and a 7% increase in the commercial and public services sector.

SEI, the statutory authority charged with promoting and assisting the development of sustainable energy, said the energy efficiency of domestic, commercial and public buildings must remain a priority.

It said enhanced energy efficiency programmes for buildings provided for in last week’s budget confirmed the Government’s commitment to this area.

Energy use linked to economic activity declined last year. There was a 5.4% fall in industrial energy use and a first time fall of 1.3% in transport, due mainly to a decline in freight transport.

Imported oil and gas remained the main fuel source, accounting for 81% of energy supply.

Renewable energy use increased by 21% last year. There was a 23% increase in wind generation and a 45% increase in the contribution from hydro-generation.

The total contribution from renewable energy to gross electricity consumption was 12%, compared to 9.45% in 2007, suggesting that Ireland is on track to meet the Energy White Paper 2010 target of 15%.

Between 2000 and 2007, renewable energy used for heat grew from 2.4% to 3.7% before falling back last year to 3.6%, which is below the 5% White Paper target.

SEI chief executive Prof Owen Lewis said a key issue was what would happen when Ireland came out of the recession.

“It is critical that the return to economic growth is not matched by a corresponding growth in energy demand,” he warned.

“As a nation, as individual businesses and as householders, we must continue to make sustainable energy a normal way of life and to aggressively pursue technologies and practices that thrust Ireland into the forefront of the clean, green revolution,” he said.

Natural gas remains the dominant fuel in electricity generation with its share increasing to 55% in 2008.

Fossil fuels accounted for 96% of all energy used in Ireland last year with consumption of oil falling slightly to 55% and natural gas increasing by 4.6% to 27%. Natural gas use increased by 4.6%.

Transport energy use almost doubled over the period 1990-2008.


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