The transport sector was the main driver of the COVID reduction in energy demand, and it is the main driver of the rebounds we observe in 2021.
Interrupted growth of transport sector demand in 2020
Since 2014, the transport sector had been the largest energy demand, but in 2020 it fell below the heat sector. Since the transport sector is the most sensitive to the economy, it grows or reduces sharply in response to economic growth or contraction. This sensitivity is obvious in 2020 and also evident over the last three decades.
Unlike the reduction in total energy demand, transport’s in-year drop of -26% in 2020 was wholly unprecedented. The drop was driven by travel restrictions and the subsequent reduced demand for diesel, petrol, and jet kerosene, in that order.
Definitive annual data shows a partial recovery of +7.2% in 2021’s transport demand.
The graphs below show trends in energy for transport, broken down in different ways.
Final energy by mode of transport
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Transport by mode (ktoe),Private car,HGV,LGV,Aviation (Domestic),Aviation (International),Public Passenger,Rail,Navigation,Gas Pipeline,Fuel Tourism,Unspecified 2005,1891,1112,0,27,832,157,45,50,2,387,581 2006,2006,1076,0,31,959,160,45,81,2,407,673 2007,2085,1145,0,28,1017,168,47,64,1,521,640 2008,2111,1056,405,27,945,204,50,66,1,253,327 2009,2057,785,374,22,746,182,44,64,1,212,377 2010,2013,688,348,16,772,165,44,65,2,229,258 2011,2047,632,340,8,692,154,44,56,4,230,219 2012,2055,629,329,5,581,149,42,59,4,169,154 2013,2103,581,355,5,671,142,42,58,3,210,177 2014,2156,622,373,5,744,136,38,72,3,241,130 2015,2158,626,378,5,842,133,39,71,4,387,142 2016,2122,735,360,6,864,133,40,86,21,384,218 2017,2078,748,354,6,1016,130,42,76,20,163,436 2018,2068,734,342,6,1098,138,42,84,23,184,476 2019,2080,789,330,6,1110,139,44,89,17,245,384 2020,1638,725,298,3,396,119,36,109,15,81,462 2021,1794,796,279,3,444,117,39,121,15,206,343
Private car energy use clearly dominates and accounted for over 40% of transport energy use in 2021. Private car energy use declined briefly during the recession in 2009 and 2010 but returned to growth in 2011. It peaked in 2015 but remained relatively flat up until 2019, before the sharp drop in 2020. The levelling off of private car energy demand between 2015 and 2019 was due to a combination of the amount of kilometres driven levelling off and the efficiency of the car stock improving.
Aviation and HGV
Energy used for air travel decreased by 64% in 2020, falling to its lowest level since 1996. In 2019, aviation accounted for 21% of energy used for transport, second only to private cars. In 2021 however, aviation only accounted for 11%. Aviation energy use is notable in that it usually makes up a large share of transport energy use in Ireland but can be severely affected by external factors such as recessions or the COVID-19 pandemic.
HGV energy use also saw large reduction during the recession, falling by 49% between 2007 and 2013. It increased since but has remains below the 2007 peak.
Private car activity
Private Car Activity (billion km driven per annum),All Private Cars,Private Petrol Cars,Private Diesel Cars 2005,28.3,22.4,5.9 2006,29.9,23,6.9 2007,31.3,23.4,7.9 2008,31.7,22.8,8.9 2009,31.1,21.4,9.7 2010,30.8,19.8,11 2011,31.6,18.7,12.9 2012,32.1,17.6,14.5 2013,33.3,17,16.3 2014,34.5,16.2,18.3 2015,34.9,15.1,19.8 2016,34.8,13.6,21.2 2017,35.1,12.3,22.8 2018,35.1,11.1,24
Increase in kilometres driven
We use vehicle-kilometres (vkm) to measure the activity of private cars. This is the sum of all kilometres driven by all private cars. The total number of kilometres driven by private cars in 2018 did not increase from the previous year, however it was still 11% higher than at the celtic tiger peak in 2008 and a massive 51% higher than in the year 2000.
Petrol to diesel shift
In the past, private cars ran mostly on petrol while commercial vehicles used diesel. From the mid 2000s, the share of diesel private cars began to increase. Changes to annual car taxation in 2008 accelerated this trend. The kilometres driven for petrol cars decreased by 51% between 2008 and 2018. In turn, the number vehicle-kilometres by diesel cars increased by 170%.
Carbon intensity of new cars
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,NEDC procedure,WLTP procedure 2005,166.1, 2006,161.7, 2007,164.0, 2008,158.2, 2009,144.0, 2010,132.8, 2011,128.0, 2012,125.1, 2013,120.9, 2014,117.5, 2015,114.9, 2016,112.4, 2017,112.7, 2018,114.0, 2019,117.5, 2020,111.0, 2021,,122.2
CO2 emissions for new cars
For the average new car purchased, CO2 emissions per kilometre fell by 32% between 2007 and 2016, reaching 112.4 g CO2/km in 2016. This was due to car taxation changes, and EU obligations for manufacturers to reduce fleet emissions. By 2019 however, the average CO2 emissions per kilometre had increased again by almost 5% --- partly due to the increasing share of SUVs. Subsequently, the CO2 emissions per kilometre of cars purchased during 2020 reversed, falling to 111.0 gCO2/km. This 2020 result finishes the use of the NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) test procedure. The timeseries breaks in 2021 and from January 2021 a new test methodology called the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) came into force for all new cars. This new test is intended to better reflect real-world driving profiles.
New test procedures
A standardised laboratory test procedure determines the carbon emissions ratings of new cars. The on-road factor is the difference between test emissions and emissions in real world driving conditions. Evidence shows that the on-road factor has increased dramatically in recent years. Real world fuel consumption and carbon emissions are now much greater than test values.
The new procedure, the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehice, aims to reduce the difference between test results and real world performance.
Final energy by fuel
Transport energy by fuel (ktoe),Diesel,Gasoline,Jet Kerosene,Fuel Oil,LPG,Natural Gas,Liquid Biofuels,Electricity 2005,2378,1822,857,18,1,2,1,5 2006,2590,1849,988,0,1,2,3,5 2007,2759,1886,1043,0,1,1,22,4 2008,2615,1798,970,0,1,1,56,5 2009,2378,1636,767,0,1,1,77,4 2010,2236,1478,787,0,1,2,93,4 2011,2221,1399,699,0,1,4,98,4 2012,2224,1272,586,0,1,4,85,4 2013,2365,1197,675,0,1,3,102,4 2014,2515,1134,748,0,2,3,116,3 2015,2727,1075,846,0,3,4,128,4 2016,2951,1003,868,0,3,21,118,4 2017,2955,904,1021,0,2,20,161,5 2018,3084,824,1103,0,2,23,154,5 2019,3124,781,1116,0,2,17,188,7 2020,2706,578,398,0,1,16,174,7 2021,2891,613,446,0,1,17,178,10
The above chart shows the trends in transport's final energy use split by fuel type between 2001 and 2021.
Petrol and diesel
There was a clear shift from petrol to diesel over the time period, due to the switch to diesel private cars that was accelerated by the changes to the private car tax system from 2008 onwards.. Petrol is called "gasoline" in energy statistics and in the above charts. SEAI publishes the monthly deliveries of gasoline and diesel within Ireland at:
Renewables and electricity
Renewable transport fuels have grown from a low base to 3.8% of transport final energy use in 2021. This is almost all from biofuels blended with petrol and diesel. Electricity remained at just 0.2% of transport final energy demand in 2021. Most of this was from Luas and DART light railways, but electric road vehicles are growing strongly from a low base.
Heavy Goods Vehicle activity
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Heavy Goods Vehicle Activity (Million tonne km),Delivery of construction materials,Import & export,Delivery of goods to wholesalers & retail,Delivery of materials to factories,Carriage of Agri-products,Other 2005,4195,4018,4242,1213,912,3572 2006,4170,3745,3686,1364,964,3392 2007,4226,4689,4045,1582,1028,3137 2008,3380,4425,4242,1457,991,2792 2009,1610,3438,2904,1180,773,2165 2010,1224,2728,2847,981,884,2260 2011,980,2708,2835,910,784,1725 2012,995,2973,2446,875,735,1871 2013,978,2374,2471,818,821,1675 2014,975,2350,2841,986,896,1725 2015,965,2335,2786,1129,912,1716 2016,1474,2378,3440,1588,959,1724 2017,1653,2498,3703,1254,996,1656 2018,1923,2327,3802,1241,1057,1188 2019,2032,2523,3936,1456,1149,1309 2020,1665,2441,3971,1305,1170,831 2021,1897,2312,4475,1478,1095,1227
Activity of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV) is best measured by tonne-kilometres (tkm). Tonne-kilometres are the weight of the freight that is transported multiplied by the distance it is transported over. The CSO track HGV activity in their annual “Road Freight Survey”.
HGVs were responsible for the largest share of the decrease in transport sector energy demand between 2007 and 2013. This was primarily the result of reduced activity in the sector, which contracted more sharply than economic growth after the economic crisis of 2008. By 2013 HGV activity was down 51% compared to the peak in 2007. It returned to growth from 2014 but by 2021 it was still below the 2007 level.
Although HGV activity was less affected by COVID-19 travel restrictions than private cars or aviation, the amount of tonne-km still fell in 2020. This was nearly twice the reduction seen total economic activity, as measured by modified domestic demand. HGV activity returned to growth in 2021.
Impact of the construction sector
There was a rapid increase in overall HGV tonne-kilometres between 2000 and 2007. A sharp decline followed between 2007 and 2013. Delivery of construction materials contributed most to this pattern. Construction traffic only returned to growth in 2016, and in 2021 was still 55% below the 2007 peak. We expect to see an increase in energy use from this sector as house-building and major infrastructure projects ramp up, though it may never reach 2007 levels. In 2021, import and export freight was still 51% below the 2007 peak.
Transport energy in Ireland
See the downloads below for more information on transport energy.