Developing renewable energy is integral to Ireland’s climate change strategy. It contributes to security, cost competitiveness and sustainability goals.
Renewable energy targets
At least 16% of gross final energy consumption (GFC) in Ireland must come from renewables by 2020. This is a mandatory target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive. It is commonly referred to as “the overall RES target”.
Renewable energy is typically split into three modes: Electricity, Transport and Heat. The graphs below show renewable energy use in Ireland, broken down in different ways.
Overall renewable energy share (RES)
Renewable Energy Share (RES) by mode,RES-E (normalised),RES-H,RES-T 2005,1.3,1.5,0 2006,1.6,1.5,0 2007,1.8,1.5,0.2 2008,2.1,1.4,0.4 2009,2.8,1.7,0.6 2010,3.2,1.8,0.8 2011,3.8,1.9,0.9 2012,4.3,2,0.8 2013,4.6,2.1,0.9 2014,5.1,2.4,1.1 2015,5.5,2.4,1.1 2016,5.8,2.4,1 2017,6.6,2.5,1.4 2018,7.2,2.5,1.3
This graph shows the growth in renewable energy as a share of GFC. in 2018 the overall renewable energy share in ireland was 11%, compared to the 2020 target of 16%. Compared to other EU countries, Ireland had the second largest gap to the 2020 target in 2018.
Renewable electricity accounted for two thirds (66%) of renewable energy used in 2018.
Renewable energy share in electricity (RES-E)
Renewable Energy Share of Electricity (RES-E) by fuel (%),Wind (normalised),Hydro (normalised),Biomass,Other 2005,4,2.7,0,0.9 2006,5.4,2.6,0,0.9 2007,6.4,2.5,0,1.1 2008,7.6,2.5,0.1,1.3 2009,10.5,2.6,0.2,1.5 2010,11.9,2.6,0.4,1.8 2011,14.3,2.7,0.5,1.9 2012,15.5,2.8,0.9,2.3 2013,16.9,2.7,1.1,2.4 2014,19,2.6,1.2,2.7 2015,21.3,2.5,1,2.4 2016,22,2.5,1.6,3 2017,25.2,2.4,1.8,3.2 2018,28.1,2.3,2.2,3.4
Electricity generation has been the most successful of the three modes for the development of energy from renewable sources. Renewable energy sources are now the second largest source of electricity after natural gas. Ireland has no mandatory target for RES-E for 2020 but has set an ambitious national target of 40%. RES-E forms the backbone of Ireland’s strategy to achieve the overall 16% renewable energy target for 2020. In 2018 33.3% of electricity came from renewable sources. Ireland had the 12th largest share of RES-E of the 28 EU member states in 2018.
Hydro and wind
Historically, hydro was the largest contributor to renewable electricity in Ireland. Since the early 2000s electricity production from wind energy has increased dramatically. Electricity generated from hydro and wind varies depending on rainfall and wind conditions. To even this out, the Renewable Energy Directive allows averaging of wind and hydro output over a number of years. This is known as normalisation. Normalised wind accounted for 85% of renewable electricity generated in 2018. Ireland had the second largest share of wind energy after Denmark .
Electricity generated from wind has a particular technical charteristic, it is known as "non-synchronous" generation. Incorporating a large share of non-synchronous generation is a big challenge for the stable operation of the electricity grid. Achieving this has required the Irish grid operator, EirGrid, to become a world leader in this area.
Renewable energy share in heat (RES-H)
Renewable Energy Share of Heat (RES-H) by fuel (%),Biomass,Biogas,Solar Thermal,Ambient 2005,3.2,0.1,0,0.1 2006,3.4,0.1,0,0.1 2007,3.5,0.1,0,0.2 2008,3.1,0.1,0.1,0.2 2009,3.6,0.2,0.1,0.3 2010,3.7,0.2,0.1,0.3 2011,3.9,0.2,0.2,0.4 2012,4,0.2,0.2,0.4 2013,4.3,0.2,0.2,0.5 2014,5.3,0.2,0.3,0.5 2015,5.1,0.2,0.3,0.6 2016,5.1,0.2,0.3,0.7 2017,5.3,0.2,0.3,0.9 2018,5,0.2,0.3,0.9
Ireland has set a national target of 12% of heat to come from renewable sources by 2020. The contribution of renewable energy to heat grew from 3.4 % in 2005 to 6.7% in 2017. The share of renewable heat energy reduced to 6.4% in 2018. This was despite growth in the overall amount of renewable heat, however fossil heat use grew at a faster rate, leading to a reduction in the share of renewables.
Renewable heat use in Ireland is dominated by the use of solid biomass. Increased use of wood waste as an energy source in wood processing is the reason for most of the growth since 2000. In the residential sector there has been a large increase in the number of air source heat pumps in recent years leading to an increase in the use of renewable ambient energy.
Ireland had the second lowest share of renewable heat of any EU member state in 2018. Because heat is a large share of final end use, Ireland's low share of renewable heat is the main reason that we will fail to meet our 2020 renewable energy targets.
Renewable energy share in transport (RES-T)
,% RES-T including weightings,% renewable transport from the perspective of the overall RES target 2005,0,0 2006,0.1,0.1 2007,0.5,0.4 2008,1.3,1.1 2009,1.9,1.6 2010,2.5,2 2011,3.8,2.3 2012,4,2.1 2013,4.9,2.4 2014,5.2,2.7 2015,5.9,2.8 2016,5.2,2.5 2017,7.4,3.4 2018,7.2,3.2
10% of energy consumed in road and rail transport must come from renewable sources. This is a mandatory target set by the Renewable Energy Directive, often referred to as RES-T.
The Directive allows the following weighting factors when calculating the share of renewable transport energy for the specific RES-T target:
- 2 for second generation biofuels and biofuels from waste
- 5 for electricity from renewable energy sources consumed by electric road vehicles
- 2.5 electricity from renewable energy sources consumed by rail transport
These weightings make it easier to meet the RES-T target but do not count towards the overall RES target.
In 2018, the RES-T % share, including weightings, was 7.2%, down from 7.4% in 2017. From the perspective of the methodology used to calculate the overall RES target, the share of renewable transport was just 3.2% in 2018.
Ireland had the 12th largest share of RES-T out of the 28 EU member states in 2018.
Renewable energy share in transport (RES-T) by fuel type
Renewable Energy Share of Transport (RES-T) by fuel (%),Biodiesel,Biogasoline,Pure Plant Oil,Renewable Electricity 2005,0,0,0,0 2006,0,0,0,0 2007,0.4,0.1,0,0 2008,0.8,0.4,0.1,0 2009,1.3,0.6,0,0 2010,1.6,0.8,0.1,0 2011,3,0.8,0,0 2012,3.2,0.8,0,0 2013,4.1,0.8,0,0 2014,4.5,0.7,0,0 2015,5,0.8,0,0.1 2016,4.3,0.8,0,0.1 2017,6.6,0.7,0,0.1 2018,6.3,0.7,0,0.1
Biodiesel and bioethanol
Renewable transport fuel use is almost entirely due to biodiesel and bioethanol. These are blended in all regular petrol and diesel for sale in Ireland.
Without weighting factors, biodiesel made up 82% of renewable transport energy use in 2018. Bioethanol accounted for 18%. This is partly because of the higher use of diesel than petrol. All biodiesel qualifies for the factor of 2 weighing but only about 10% of bioethanol qualified in 2018.
Including the weightings, biodiesel accounted for 88% of renewable transport energy in 2018.
Electricity in transport
Renewable electricity in road and rail transport also counts towards the RES-T target. However with weightings it accounted for just 1.4% of renewable transport energy use in 2018. Most of this was from the DART and Luas electric rail services, but electric vehicle numbers are growing strongly from a low base.
CO₂ emissions avoided through the use of renewable energy
Avoided CO? from renewable energy,Wind (E),Renewable Wastes (E),Solid Biomass (E),Landfill Gas (E),Hydro (E),Liquid Biofuels (T),Solar Thermal (H),Ambient (H),Biogas (H),Solid Biomass (H) 2005,577,0,6,65,328,3,2,6,29,219 2006,836,0,7,65,373,9,3,11,30,237 2007,941,0,6,91,320,66,6,17,32,275 2008,1097,0,23,97,441,177,14,25,32,256 2009,1326,12,57,103,405,235,23,29,41,280 2010,1220,15,109,107,260,280,33,29,44,245 2011,1568,26,140,105,295,301,37,35,42,229 2012,1429,106,187,103,333,257,41,34,40,183 2013,1657,117,239,91,247,299,42,44,35,215 2014,1891,124,276,94,289,332,45,50,40,273 2015,2436,138,203,101,323,367,48,57,42,224 2016,2188,154,211,95,269,331,51,66,49,227 2017,2698,225,204,93,274,473,52,88,51,198 2018,3149,335,178,80,273,471,53,116,52,211
Renewable energy reduces CO₂ emissions
The replacement of fossil fuels with renewable zero-carbon energy sources is essential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also improves energy security by reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels.
The amount of CO₂ avoided through the use of renewable energy increased four-fold between 2005 and 2018, reaching 4.9 million tonnes of CO₂ avoided in 2018. This was equivalent to the CO₂ emissions of half of all Irish households.
Success of Renewable Electricity
82% of CO₂ emissions avoided from the use of renewable energy in 2018 were from renewable electricity. Wind generated electricity alone was responsible for 64% of all avoided CO₂ emissions, avoiding 3.1 Million tonnes of CO₂.
Decarbonising the electricity system combined with increased electrification of heat and transport, for example through electric vehicles and heat pumps, is a crucial part of the strategy for decarbonising the energy system. The use of renewable electricity ensures that switching to electric vehicles and heat pumps results in a significant reduction in CO₂ emissions compared to the fossil fuel alternative.
Electricity generation is covered by the EU emissions trading system (ETS). Ireland’s EU target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions relates to emissions outside of the ETS, known as non-ETS emissions. Therefore CO₂ emissions savings achieved in electricity generation do not count directly towards this target. However electrification of heat and transport reduces fossil fuel use in these sectors, which does reduce non-ETS CO₂ emissions and so contributes to meeting Ireland’s EU target for reducing emissions.
Renewable energy in Ireland
For more information on renewable energy see our latest Renewable Energy in Ireland publication.
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