The Renewable Energy in Ireland 2019 report provides a detailed analysis of Ireland’s progress towards the 2020 renewable energy targets.
Progress towards targets
10.6%Overall share of renewable energy
7.4%Share of renewable transport
6.9%Share of renewable heat
30.1%Share of renewable electricity
“We need to accelerate the pace of change. Collectively and individually, we need to take greater advantage of the renewable resources available to us here in Ireland”, that is according to Jim Gannon, CEO of SEAI.
The report is clear that Ireland will not meet these renewables targets, despite a strong performance in renewable electricity. In 2017, 30% of electricity was generated from renewable sources, largely due to increased generation from wind, which accounted for 84% of all renewable electricity.
While reducing the carbon intensity of electricity is critical to meeting Ireland’s climate change objectives it is simply not enough on its own. We need to make progress in all areas of energy use and rapidly increase the adoption of renewables across heating and transport, if we are serious about reducing Ireland’s carbon emissions.
“We are performing well in renewable electricity. The latest data shows that Ireland has the third highest share of wind-generated electricity out the 28 EU countries.
There has been a large increase in the use renewable heat in the residential sector, due to the growing adoption of air-source heat-pumps. The adoption of district heating systems and sustainable bioenergy for direct use can also make strong contributions to reducing emissions from heating. A transition to a largely electrified passenger fleet, along with the consideration of alternative fuels such as biogas and hydrogen for commercial, public transport and freight are necessary in decarbonising our transport system.”
It is clear that we need to step up our ambition. The window for opportunity is closing and we must respond urgently. The all of government Climate Plan will be published shortly. This will show a range of actions across sectors of society with clear timelines. Our focus will be on implementation and lifting Ireland’s ambition.
Ireland has committed to a target of 16% of total energy from renewable sources by 2020. The report shows that 10.6% of energy consumed in Ireland in 2017 came from renewables, with the remainder coming from carbon intensive fossil fuels.
Transport represents the single largest sector of energy use, but the lowest share of renewables. In 2017, 97% of transport energy was from oil-based products. The vast majority of renewable energy in transport came from bioenergy with renewable electricity accounting for approximately just 1%. Urban rail services have traditionally been the biggest users of electricity for transport, however the number of electric cars on the roads is increasing, albeit from a low base.
To coincide with the publication of the Renewable Energy in Ireland report, the SEAI has released the findings of research which examined the sustainability of using biomass fuels to produce renewable energy in Ireland. The research, which was commissioned by the SEAI and undertaken by Byrne Ó Cléirigh and Ecofys, found that Ireland is in a position to supply sustainable biomass to the energy sector, but only if suitable sources of biomass are used.
Biomass sources with low lifecycle emissions and sustainable land‐use management and governance, such as biogas from wet animal manure, biomass from Irish forest residues and by-products of the wood industry, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While biogas from grass silage produced under current cultivation practices, wood pellets imported from outside the EU and from Irish grown short rotation coppice willow all have greater potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Commenting on the findings of the report Gannon said;
“To be sustainable, bioenergy must reduce greenhouse gas emissions and there are actions that can improve the sustainability of bioenergy. For example, with regard to wood derived fuel, only those parts of a tree that are unsuitable for timber products should be used to generate energy. Using timber for building construction and to make everyday products locks the carbon away for many crucial decades and is by far the best use of this valuable resource. Policy makers must take care to ensure that changing the use of land to produce biomass fuel doesn’t have unintended negative consequences elsewhere.”
The development of Irish sources of renewable energy, can create local jobs and encourage inward investment. Renewable energy is essential to support the transition to a sustainable economy – one that is not wedded to the use of imported fossil fuels