Energy consumption accounted for 60% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. Transport, residential and industry accounted for the highest shares.

  • 32%

    Higher CO₂ emissions intensity than European average in 2016
  • 60%

    Greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption in 2017
  • 4.2 MtCO₂

    Reduction in emissions by use of renewable energies

Economic activity and energy use

Ireland’s economy grew rapidly during the Celtic Tiger years. It then contracted sharply between 2007 and 2010. Energy use and emissions also fell, particularly in the transport sector. This is closely coupled with economic activity.

Decoupling of economic activity from energy use

Year Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Modified Gross National Income (GNI*) Energy CO2
2005 100 100 100
2006 105 110 98
2007 111 115 100
2008 106 109 100
2009 100 94 89
2010 102 90 88
2011 106 88 82
2012 106 88 81
2013 108 95 78
2014 117 103 77
2015 147 112 81
2016 154 122 84
201716512682
Source: SEAI

Ireland’s economy grew rapidly during the Celtic Tiger years. It then contracted sharply between 2007 and 2010. Energy use and emissions also fell, particularly in the transport sector. This is closely coupled with economic activity.

Between 2011 and 2014 energy-related CO2 emissions fell as the economy grew. We refer to this as absolute decoupling. In other words, emissions declining in absolute terms as the economy grows. Influential factors included:

  • Increased use of renewable energy technologies
  • Higher efficiency vehicles, homes and businesses

Recent emissions trend

In 2015 and 2016, the economy continued to grow. At the same time emissions started to rise again, albeit at a slower rate than economic growth. This is called relative decoupling. Influential factors included:

  • Economic growth
  • Increased transport demand 
  • Low energy prices driving increased demand

Emissions fell in 2017 primarily due to lower use of coal in electricity generation and increased renewable generation mainly from wind. 

Energy related CO₂ by fuel

 OilGasCoalPeatWastes Non-Renewable
200527.9828.3327.4633.7660
2006 27.351 9.444 6.465 3.564 0
2007 27.390 10.1506.3423.4830
200827.14110.7725.5914.1320
200923.47910.2584.5364.134 0.029
201022.11311.2694.8843.612 0.017
201120.5579.9054.8883.426 0.030
201218.9619.6225.8933.7750.096
201319.1279.0615.2023.6060.129
201418.9848.8604.8933.7520.139
201520.2228.9815.6573.6300.145
201620.9989.9425.4343.5270.140
201721.12610.0934.3613.3370.266
Source: SEAI

Energy-related CO2 emission levels are affected by fuels and energy sources used. For instance, coal and peat emit high levels of CO2 per unit of energy used. Natural gas emits much less. Some renewable energy sources emit zero carbon. Therefore, changes in the fuel mix over time can increase or reduce emissions.

Intensity of energy emissions

In 2016, the CO2 emissions intensity of our energy supply was 32% higher than the European average. This was in part due to greater use of high-carbon fuels including coal, peat and oil in Ireland.

Some countries in Europe also have a considerably higher share of renewable energy in their energy mix. For example, hydro contributes a significant share to Norway and Austria’s energy mix. Other reasons include the prevalence of nuclear energy in many European countries (e.g. France), and the widespread use of district heating in many Nordic countries.

Renewable energy to avoid emissions

Using renewable energy for heat, electricity and transport reduced emissions by 4.2 million tonnes CO2 (MtCO2) in 2017. This equivalent to the CO2 emissions of almost three quarters of private cars (1.4 million) on the road. It is also the same as one fifth of agricultural emissions of greenhouse gases.