Energy Security in Ireland

Energy security is comprised of many factors, including import dependency, fuel diversity, capacity and integrity of supply and distribution infrastructure, energy prices, physical risks, supply disruptions and emergencies.

Ireland’s energy import dependency was 88% in 2015, costing the State approximately €4.6 billion. In absolute terms, net energy imports peaked in 2008 however, and decreased by approximately 20% since this period. This was primarily due to the fall in energy demand linked with the global economic crisis.

In 2014, 97% of energy imports related to fossil fuels (excluding the fossil fuel content of imported electricity), namely oil (56%), natural gas (31%), and coal (10%). The remainder was electricity (2%), and biofuels (1%).

Indigenous energy production in 2014 comprised of peat (47%), renewable energy sources (44%), natural gas (6%) and non-renewable wastes (3%).

Reliance on Oil
Ireland’s oil dependency was the fourth highest in the EU in 2013, with 49% of all energy use derived from oil. All of Ireland’s oil is imported. Oil imports cost an estimated €4.4 billion in 2014, 77% of total energy import costs. The majority (73%) of Ireland’s oil imports were in the form of oil products, such as petrol and diesel, with the remainder as crude oil.

Prior to 2009 the majority of Ireland’s crude oil imports came from the UK and Norway. Since then the source has become much more variable, with significant imports from North and West Africa, reflecting the global nature of international crude oil markets.

Over 70% of oil used in Ireland in 2014 was for transport. 97% of energy used in the transport sector was from oil based products. This near total reliance on a single fuel source is unique to this sector.

Reliance on Natural Gas
In 2014, 96% of natural gas used in Ireland was imported compared to an EU average of 65%. All of Ireland’s natural gas imports are derived from the UK. Conversely, the UK has been a net importer of natural gas since 2011.

The Corrib gas field, located off the coast of Mayo, was anticipated to commence full commercial production in late 2015 and is expected to meet 77% of the Republic of Ireland’s annual gas demand when in commercial production. While Corrib will greatly enhance Ireland’s security of supply in the short-term, in the medium-to-long-term, post 2020, Ireland is likely to remain largely dependent on imported natural gas to meet demand.

Electricity generation in Ireland relies heavily on natural gas, with 46% of the electricity generated coming from natural gas in 2014.

Overall Energy Security
The Supply/Demand index is a measure of medium-to-long-term energy security of the whole energy system. The Supply/Demand index for Ireland depicts an overall decreasing trend over the period 2000–2014, indicating a reduction in overall energy security. This overall reduction in energy security is mainly due to the increasing shares of Ireland’s oil and gas that are ultimately sourced from outside the EU and OECD.

In the past Ireland’s oil and gas was mostly produced in the North Sea and supplied by the UK and Norway, the UK remained Ireland’s largest energy trading partner in 2014. Due to declining North Sea oil and gas production the UK is now a net importer of crude oil, oil products and natural gas. It increasingly sources its energy imports from outside the EU and OECD, and this has a knock on effect on Irish energy security. This trend is expected to continue as reserves of oil and gas from the North Sea continue to decline in the coming years.

Diversifying the fuel mix enhances energy security, particularly where there is an over-reliance on a single fuel source. In this regard, transport is the least secure energy sector, being almost entirely dependent on oil based products, and has the greatest need of increased fuel diversity. Diversification of the electricity generation fuel mix by increasing indigenous renewable electricity production has reduced the demand for imported fossil fuels and the associated exposure to their variations in price (SEAI, 2016).

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