A survey of energy consumption and production patterns of the 27 EU member states shows that Ireland has the fourth-highest dependency rate after Cyprus, Malta and Luxembourg — all much smaller states with little or no natural energy resources.
The figures also show that our dependency level is continuing to increase as imports rose to 14.2m tonnes of oil equivalent in 2006 — a 4.1% increase on the previous year compared with an EU average of 2.4%.
Energy use here also rose by 2.6% during 2006 at a time when average consumption across the EU was static with almost half of all member countries actually recording a decline in energy use including Britain, France, Italy and Spain.
Production levels from native energy sources in the republic fell by 1.2% over the same period to 1.6m tonnes of oil equivalent, largely due to falling production levels from the Kinsale gas field.
The survey shows that production from our natural energy resources accounts for only about 10% of all Irish energy needs.
Half of all domestic energy production still comes from peat-burning stations with natural gas and renewable sources contributing 25% each of the total.
Renewable energy sources account for just 2.6% of our energy needs — far short of the Government target of 20% to be reached by 2020.
The figures are published just days after Taoiseach Brian Cowen warned Ireland had to begin the transition to a low-carbon economy. “The changes involved will be profound and will impact significantly on the structure of the economy. No sector, organisation or individual will be immune,” said Mr Cowen.
The Government has become increasingly concerned about our high energy dependency ratio on imported fossil fuels, especially with sharp increases in the price of oil and its impact on inflation and loss of competitiveness.
The republic’s lack of natural energy resources compares unfavourably. On average, EU member states are self-sufficient for 46% of their energy needs compared with 9% in the republic. Britain only has to import 20% of its energy needs due to oil and gas supplies from the North Sea and its nuclear energy generating capacity.
Nuclear energy is the most popular type of energy generated from domestic sources in Europe.