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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.


  • 1757 Construction of the Grand Canal from Dublin to the Shannon begins. The work was completed in 1804 and was used to transport passengers and goods between Dublin and rural Ireland.


  • 1815 Charles Bianconi began a transportation network, transporting people around Ireland in stage coaches.


  • 1834 Ireland’s first railway opens, running from Dublin to Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire). It is the earliest dedicated commuter railway in the world.


  • 1896 The first car is exhibited in Ireland.
  • 1896 An electric tram was operated by the Dublin Southern District Tramways Company from Haddington Road to Dalkey.


  • 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.


  • 1914 World War I (1914-1918). This impacted on Irish industry with restrictions on coal and higher transportation rates.
  • 1916 Dublin port was a transit point for British goods and for the agricultural export trade. Cattle boats left at least seven times a day as part of 80 weekly sailings to England. The economy is dominated by agriculture (50% of workforce), linen production, shipbuilding, brewing and distilling. Ireland does not export much apart from Guinness, Jacobs biscuits and agricultural produce.
  • 1916 Trams pulled by horses, horses, bicycles, and a small fleet of around 10,000 cars dominated transport. With the rise of electricity, it merited the end of the horse pulled tramcars.
  • 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.
  • 1937 The construction of the River Liffey hydro-electric scheme (Pollaphuca, Golden Falls, Leixlip) begins, continuing into the 1940s.
  • 1938 Double deck buses using internal combustion engines replaced electric powered trams in Dublin.


  • 1940 Dublin Airport officially opens.
  • 1948 Aer Lingus launched the first Irish trans-Atlantic aviation service.
  • 1949 CIE operated most of the railway lines in the country, a total of 3675 miles of railway lines are open to traffic.
  • 1949 17,000 flights go in and out of Dublin airport carrying 213,000 passengers.


  • 1956 As more peat fired stations came on stream supporting infrastructure was developed such as the first railway bridge to be built across the Shannon for 100 years.


  • 1973 The Yom Kippur War. Oil price rises from $2/barrel to $12/barrel.


  • 1985 World oil price collapses from $28/barrel to $14/barrel and generally stays below $20/barrel until 1999.


  • 2002 Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) established as a statutory authority under the Sustainable Energy Act. Delivers a range of energy efficiency, renewable energy and CHP programmes.
  • 2004 Tram services returned to Dublin with the opening of the Luas.
  • 2004 Ireland’s first solid biomass fuelled CHP plant begins operating producing heat for timber drying operations.
  • 2004 Average dwelling consumed 24,500 kWh of energy. 79% was in the form of direct fossil fuels and the remainder as electricity (net consumption).
  • 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.
  • 2009 Renewable Energy Directive individually binding targets – 16% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 for Ireland. National targets of 40% renewable electricity, 10% renewable transport, and 12% renewable heat by 2020.
  • 2009 Cycle to work scheme introduces tax relief for bicycles used for commuting to work.


  • 2010 Biofuel Obligation Scheme sets a target on average for 4.166% by volume of motor fuels to be produced by renewable sources.
  • 2010 Carbon tax applied to road transport and extended to other fuel types.
  • 2011 Transport sector accounts for the most primary energy used in Ireland, followed by the residential sector.
  • 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 Biofuels Obligations Scheme raised to 6.383%.
  • 2013 75% of all domestic journeys taken by car – Ireland’s car dependence is in line with the EU average.
  • 2014 Nearly 2 million cars in Ireland and 26.5 million passengers through Dublin Airport.
  • 2014 Ireland achieves 6.6% of heat from renewable sources (12% target for 2020), 3.1% renewable transport or 5.2% if using double certificate weightings (10% target), and 22.7% renewable electricity (40% target).
  • 2015 562 electric vehicles sold in 2015. Government target of 50,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2020.