The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) today published its annual report Energy in Ireland 2021, profiling the trends in energy use and related CO2 emissions for 2020.

  • 11.4%

    lower Energy Related CO2 emissions in 2020
  • 2009

    most signifcant reduction since the 2009 recession
  • 9%

    reduction in total energy consumption

Ireland’s total energy use in 2020 was down almost 9%, due largely to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Energy related CO2 emissions fell also by 11.4%. These are most significant annual reduction since the height of the economic recession in 2009.

“Practically all reductions in energy consumption were localised to the transport sector, which was impacted by COVID-19 public health measures that restricted national and international travel. However, early data from 2021 indicates that energy use in the transport sector is returning to pre-COVID-19 levels. It is notable that the reduction in CO2 emissions seen in 2020 is less than the amount that will need to be achieved every year from 2021 to 2030 to meet our long-term decarbonisation goals. Now more than ever, it is essential that we accelerate the elimination of fossil fuels with energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and increase sustainable energy practices across all sectors.”
William Walsh, SEAI CEO

Energy consumption in the transport sector was down a quarter in 2020. All transport sub-sectors saw a reduction, with aviation and private car use experiencing the largest drops. International aviation experienced a 65% reduction in flight numbers.

CO2 emissions from heating increased slightly due mostly to an increase in oil use. This was due to global efforts used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic which caused a sharp reduction in oil price, combined with people spending more time at home due to COVID-19 measures such as work-from-home directives and school closures.

2020 was a significant year for Ireland in assessing whether the country met the EU renewable energy targets. The overall share of renewable energy was just over 13%, falling short of the 16% target. We achieved our target for EU renewable transport energy. Our share of renewable electricity was 39.1%, just shy of our target of 40%. However, we achieved just half of our renewable heating and cooling target.

William Walsh continued:

“To meet the climate challenge, as a society we will need to implement huge changes, and fast. The Climate Action Plan commits Ireland to a legally binding target of 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net-zero no later than 2050. We can create a better country in the process with more vibrant communities, better air quality, more comfortable homes, cleaner energy sources, and an economy built on sustainable industries and jobs – rather than one reliant on fossil fuels”.

SEAI offers a range of Government funded supports for householders, businesses, and communities who want to reduce their fossil fuel use. For information on these supports and further details visit

View Energy In Ireland Report 2021

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Laura Daly, Carr Communications: 0873171992 /


Highlights from the Energy in Ireland report


  • National energy use makes up 57% of Ireland’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The public health measures taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic had far-reaching impacts on all aspects of society during 2020, including on our energy use and resulting CO2 emissions.
  • Total energy consumption fell by 8.7%.
  • Practically all reductions in energy consumption were localised to the transport sector because of reduced mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Oil use decreased by 16.5% - the largest annual reduction observed to date - largely due to reduced transport energy use.

Energy-related CO2 emissions

  • Energy related CO2 emissions, including international aviation fell by 11.4%. (4.3 million tonnes of CO2)
  • Almost half of the observed CO2 reductions are due to the drop in international aviation, with a 78% reduction in passenger numbers and a 65% reduction in flight numbers.
  • Energy related CO2 emissions excluding international aviation decreased by 6.3% (2.1 million tonnes). This is less than the amount that will need to be achieved on average every year from 2021 to 2030 to meet our long-term decarbonisation goals.
  • The reduction in oil-product use lowered CO2 emissions by 3.5 million tonnes, with most of these savings being made in the transport sector

Renewable Energy Targets

  • Ireland did not meet its 2020 overall renewable energy target. The overall share of renewable energy was 13.5%, compared to the target of 16%.
  • Ireland succeeded against its EU 2020 renewable energy target for transport (10.2% vs. 10%), and just missed its renewable energy target for electricity (39.1% vs. 40%).[1]
  • Ireland achieved just half its 2020 renewable energy target for heating and cooling (6.3% vs. 12%).
  • Energy from renewable sources grew by 8.9% in 2020.


  • There were significant restrictions on personal mobility during 2020 which had direct effects on transport energy use, especially on international aviation and private cars.
  • Total transport energy use was down by over a quarter (-26%).
  • The single largest sectoral reduction in oil-product use was the two-thirds drop in jet kerosene use for international aviation (64.3%).
  • Consumption of road diesel and petrol were down 13.6% and 25.9%, respectively.


  • Peat use fell by a third, mainly due to a halving of peat for electricity generation.
  • 42% of all electricity generated in 2020 came from renewable sources.
  • 86% of all renewable electricity came from wind, with the remaining 14% evenly split across hydroelectricity and bioenergy sources.
  • Ireland had a total installed wind capacity of 4.3 GW at the end of 2020 - an increase of 180 MW on 2019.
  • There has been a strong reduction in the CO2 intensity of electricity generation, especially after 2016, with intensity falling below 300 gCO2/kWh for the first time in 2020. It is now less than half of its 2005 value.


  • Energy related CO2 emissions from heating increased by 2.6% or 0.4 million tonnes, due mostly to an increase in residential oil use.
  • CO2 emissions from residential heating increased by 9.1% or 0.6 million tonnes and the sector was responsible for 53% of CO2 emissions from heating.



[1] The normalisation calculation as prescribed in Annex II of the Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) applies to electricity generated from hydropower and wind power and is designed to even out the effects of weather variation.