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Energy Uses


Modern energy supply began as a private or local service of gas and electricity, largely based on coal in the early 20th Century. This grew to become national state-owned utilities, which was later unbundled to facilitate competition in generation and customer choice of supplier. The pattern of energy demand has shifted over the years reflecting economic growth throughout history as well as changing relative costs of different fuels, the perceived security of continued supplies and more recently, environmental considerations.


  • 1896 The first car is exhibited in Ireland.


  • 1902 Oil distribution depots for the distribution of lamp oil and kerosene are established at various strategic rail locations around the country.
  • 1906 Around 51 depots around the country supplied oil to the rapidly growing Irish motor industry and sold paraffin for lighting.


  • 1919 Alcock and Brown make the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic by aeroplane, flying from Newfoundland and ending in Connemara bog.


  • 1920 The first kerb-side petrol pump was introduced in Nassau Street in Dublin.


  • 1933 The first passenger air service from Ireland. Routes to Belfast and Liverpool are launched.
  • 1936 Aer Lingus operated the first Irish owned aviation service from Dublin to Bristol.
  • 1936 The Government introduces a requirement that the oil companies purchase industrial alcohol made from surplus potato production for blending with motor spirit (Industrial Alcohol Bill), not dissimilar to the current biofuels obligation scheme.
  • 1938 Double deck buses using internal combustion engines replaced electric powered trams in Dublin.


  • 1940 Dublin Airport officially opens.
  • 1949 Over 15,000 new cars are registered.
  • 1949 45.5 million gallons of oil imported.


  • 1950 World prices of oil had fallen after the war to a point where it became competitive with coal for gas manufacture and power generation.
  • 1958 First exclusive licence to explore for oil and gas off Irish waters is granted to the Ambassador Oil Company for a nominal sum since so little was known about the potential for discoveries.
  • 1958 A consortium of oil companies establishes the Republic’s first and only oil refinery at Whitegate.


  • 1967 The Six Day War led to a dramatic rise in oil prices, but prior planning adverted a major supply crisis in Ireland.


  • 1971 ESB completes large oil fired power station at Poolbeg in Dublin.
  • 1973 The Yom Kippur War. Oil price rises from $2/barrel to $12/barrel.
  • 1979 Second oil crisis occurs. With increasing oil prices and uncertainty about the continuity of supplies, the diversification of energy sources became an urgent issue. 2/3 of the total demand was produced from imported oil. International oil price rises from $14/barrel to $38/barrel.
  • 1979 Energy Programme in the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards developed in response to the second oil crisis.


  • 1980 Financial crisis, temporary high oil prices creating an artificial market, price controls, the ageing of ESB peat fired power stations and the introduction of the private bog scheme.
  • 1983 From 1975 to 1985 seventy-three petroleum and gas exploration wells were drilled in Irish waters and ports.
  • 1985 World oil price collapses from $28/barrel to $14/barrel and generally stays below $20/barrel until 1999.


  • 2000 Decrease in residential energy use since 1987 due in part to the switch from the use of solid fuels in open fires and back boilers to more efficient oil and natural gas central heating.
  • 2001 Ireland’s fuel import dependency reaches 90%, and continues close to this level until 2014.
  • 2006 Final energy use in the transport sector grew by 167% since 1990.
  • 2008 Changes to the taxation of private cars to CO2 based system, together with obligations on car manufacturers to improve the efficiency of their new car fleets contributed to a change in the purchasing patterns of new cars.
  • 2008 World oil price peaks at $145/barrel (nominal 2008 price).


  • 2010 Central heating systems fired by oil and gas in 80% homes in Ireland.
  • 2010 Biofuel Obligation Scheme sets a target on average for 4.166% by volume of motor fuels to be produced by renewable sources.
  • 2012 Move to diesel cars over petrol; the consumption of diesel increased by almost 230% and its overall market share grew from 33% in 1990 to 53%.
  • 2013 Energy use in the transport sector was 97.5% dependent on oil products at an estimated import cost of €3.5 billion (excluding VAT, and other duties) – just over half the estimated total cost of fuel imports.
  • 2013 Main sources of heat are oil (44%) and gas (37%).
  • 2013 Biofuels Obligations Scheme raised to 6.383%.
  • 2014 World oil price (current) falls from $102/barrel to $48/barrel – (dipping below $30 in Q4 2015).
  • 2014 Nearly 2 million cars in Ireland and 26.5 million passengers through Dublin Airport.