Energy use CO2 emissions fell by 12% in 2020

  • 4.6 million tonne reduction is largest fall since 2009
  • Total energy use fell by 9.2%, exceeding the economic contraction of 5.4%

SEAI published data which shows the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on energy use and related CO2 emissions for 2020. Energy-related CO2 emissions fell 12.4%, or 4.6 million tonnes. This means that CO2 emissions from fossil fuels used for energy were the lowest since 1993 and were 31% below 2005 levels. This marks the biggest annual reduction in CO2 emissions since the depth of the recession in 2009. Oil products used for transport accounted for the largest reduction in energy use, attributable to the public health travel restrictions.

The Provisional Energy Balance 2020 provides data on Ireland’s energy supply for last year. The main findings show:

  • Overall energy use fell by 9.2%, relative to an economic contraction of 5.4%
  • Energy related CO2 emissions fell by 12.4% or 4.6 million tonnes of CO2. Almost half of this reduction was from international aviation.
  • Oil use decreased by 16.5% in 2020, equivalent to 3.6 million tonnes of CO2. This was the largest annual reduction in oil use ever.
  • Almost all the reduction in oil use was in transport, this was because of restrictions and disruptions during the public health emergency. Total transport energy use was down 25.9%.
  • The largest reduction in oil products was in jet kerosene, which was down 64.4% (2.1 million tonnes of CO2), followed by road diesel, down 13.6% (1.3 million tonnes of CO2), and petrol, down 24.1% (0.6 million tonnes of CO2).
  • Peat use fell by 33.6% (1.0 million tonnes of CO2) mostly through a halving of peat used for electricity generation.
  • Energy from renewable sources grew by 8.5% in 2020.
  • 42.0% of electricity generated was from renewable sources in 2020, 36.1% was generated from wind.
  • The CO2 intensity of electricity fell by 8.8%. This is less than a third what it was in 1990, due to less use of coal, oil and peat, and more renewables and high efficiency gas turbines.
  • For Ireland’s 2020 EU renewable energy targets, the share of renewable energy in transport (RES-T) was 9.9%, compared to the EU target of 10%. The normalised share of renewable electricity (RES-E) in 2020 was 38.9%.

The full list of provisional 2020 data can be found here. The final 2020 National Energy Balance will be published in October 2021.