Energy Use and Security in Ireland

Ireland's Energy Use 1990-2015

Ireland’s energy import dependency decreased to 66% in 2017(from 88% in 2015) due to a significant increase in indigenous renewable energy production.

Energy-related emissions accounted for approximately 63% of Ireland’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2017.
 

Emissions from the Energy sector increased by 18.5 per cent from 31,027.0 kt CO2 eq in 1990 to 36,762.4 kt CO2 eq in 2017 (EPA, 2019).

Transport continues to dominate as the largest energy consuming sector, with a share of 42% in 2017.

Transport energy use increased by 2% in 2017, with air travel showing the strongest growth in energy use of the transport modes, with a 17.5% increase in 2017.

More than three quarters (77%) of all new private cars purchased to date in 2017 were in the A label emissions band (down from 78% in 2016).

In 2017 industry energy use fell by 3.4% to 8.4 Mt CO2. Electricity consumption was responsible for 53% of industry’s energy-related emissions this year.

Residential energy use fell by 2.9% though when adjusted for weather, it actually increased by 0.2%.

In 2017 the average household emitted 5.1 tonnes of CO2 of which 63% came from direct fuel use in the home and the remainder from electricity use (SEAI, 2018).

Energy Security

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 66% in 2017, It is estimated that in 2015 the cost of all energy imports to Ireland was approximately €4.6 billion; this fell to €3.4 billion in 2016 due mainly to reduced gas imports but increased again in 2017 to €4 billion.

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.

Net oil imports were down 3.3% to 7,125 ktoe in 2017 with with oil imports falling 23% between 2008 - 2017.This resulted in oil imports that year being 26% below 2005 levels.

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 contributed to the reduction of gas imports in 2016 at 53%. Gas imports fell by a further 17% in 2017 (1,409 ktoe).

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, and represents 9.3% of primary energy use.

Overall Energy Security
The Supply/Demand index is a measure of medium-to-long-term energy security of the whole energy system.

Ireland’s overall import dependency reached 90% in 2006. It varied between 85% and 90% until 2016 when it fell to 69% and further to 66% in 2017.

This trend reflects the fact that Ireland is not endowed with significant indigenous fossil fuel resources and has only in recent years begun to harness significant quantities of renewable resources and more recently natural gas from the Corrib gas field.


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 2017. 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, 2018).


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