SEAI data shows energy emissions rising significantly, creating major challenge for Irish society
SEAI published Ireland’s Energy Balance for 2021, which provides the complete information on Ireland’s energy use.
Although, we have committed to reducing our CO2 emissions by 4.8% per annum from 2021- 2025 under the first carbon budget, energy related emissions were instead up 5.4% in 2021. They are now back at the same level as 2019 after a temporary reduction due to COVID-related restrictions.
A rebound in car use after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions is a significant contributor to Ireland’s increased emissions. Energy demand for transport rose by 8.3% from its significant suppression in 2020. While this may be expected, it underlines the urgent requirement for change in the transport sector with a necessary shift to cycling, walking, public transport, and electric vehicles and eliminating unnecessary car journeys.
Increased energy demand, combined with modest delivery of new renewable capacity, and a low-wind year resulted in Ireland’s renewable energy share remaining unchanged since last year, at just 13.6%. The low wind year resulted in more use of coal and oil in electricity generation to meet requirements, further adding to emissions levels.
Overall, the Energy Balance shows us that in the first year of our legally binding carbon budgets, we have seen emissions trending in the complete opposite direction of where we need to be. This means we have used a disproportionate amount of our carbon budget in 2021, which results in future years being even more challenging. In addition, looking at the early data from 2022, this trend is worryingly continuing. We need to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies to levels as yet unseen here in Ireland. Importantly we also need to drastically increase sustainable energy practices to curtail demand across all sectors of the economy. Current energy security and costs are bringing this front of mind for homes and businesses across the country. Reducing our use of energy and making the transition to renewable energy technologies are essential in our collective response to this, and ultimately to deliver our national climate action goals.
A notable positive is that 2021 was the first ever year that Ireland’s indigenous production of renewables was higher than our indigenous production of natural gas. We also saw a significant rise in electric vehicles on Irish roads and over 11,000 homes receiving Government grants for home energy upgrades, contributing to a 4% reduction of energy demand in that sector. At the same time, however, over 700,000 homes remain on oil for heating and over 4,000 homes were newly added to the gas network, maintaining and extending our dependency on fossil fuels in the buildings sector.
The message is very clear, we urgently need to limit our current level of fossil fuel use. The Government is investing more money in supporting homes and businesses to do this and we are seeing real momentum. However, we need to see a dramatic increase in sustainable energy action to reverse these trends and stay within our carbon budgets.