SEAI’s report on energy emissions to 2017 highlights continuing urgency for action, but shows evidence of positive policy impact.
Energy emission analysis shows that we are beginning to see the very real impact of government policy, led by Minister Naughten, and SEAI related activity. The figures show that in 2017 we returned to an absolute decoupling of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from economic growth. We need to use this momentum to redouble our efforts, invest further and get behind the drive to deliver a clean energy future.
2017 has seen a welcome fall in emissions in spite of strong economic growth. In 2017 Modified Domestic Demand (the new measure of economic activity) grew by 3.9% while energy use grew by only 0.2% and energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell by 2.2%.
One significant contributor to the fall in emissions was the change in fuel mix in electricity generation which saw a reduction in coal (-21%) and peat (-6.4%) and a substantial increase in renewables (+18%). As a result, carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production dropped by nearly 10%. In 2017, 30% of our electricity came from renewables, with the vast majority of that coming from wind. This is the third highest share of electricity demand from wind in the EU and more than double the EU average. Early indications from 2018 would suggest that wind energy’s contribution to decarbonisation has continued to grow.
Using renewable energy for heat, electricity and transport resulted in avoiding the emissions of 4.2 million tonnes carbon dioxide (MtCO2). This equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions of almost three-quarters of our cars (1.4m cars). The DCCAE mandated an increase in the use of sustainable fuel blending in our petrol and diesel. This has meant that although transport-related energy use grew by a large amount, there was a much lesser growth in transport-related emissions. In addition, there was a reduction in emissions from our building stock due to increases in building standards and the ongoing retrofit programmes operated by SEAI for both homes and commercial property.
Ireland has excellent renewable energy resources, which will be a critical component of Irish energy supply to 2030 and beyond. It decreases our carbon dioxide emissions and enhances energy security by reducing Ireland’s dependence on imported fuels. We need to continue to support and expand renewable energy development in Ireland.
This report demonstrates the complexity and at times volatility of Ireland’s transition to a cleaner energy system as economic recovery continues apace. Absolute decoupling of emissions from economic growth must be our aim. This is influenced by a combination of prices, and policies, including policies pertaining to the type of economic growth we pursue as a country.