We answer the key questions on energy cost, supply and infrastructure in Ireland today.
We answer the key questions on energy cost, supply and infrastructure in Ireland today.
Greenhouse gases emitted in Ireland come from many different sources: carbon dioxide from burning fuels like oil, gas, peat, coal, or wood (around 65% of GHGs in Ireland); methane released from livestock and waste (around 22%); nitrous oxide from waste, fertiliser and agricultural soils (around 11%); and fluorinated compounds (F-gases) from manufacturing and refrigeration (2%).
Broken down by sector, agriculture contributed 33% to total greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, which is the most of any sector, followed by transport and energy industries (around 20% each).
The EU’s climate and energy package sets greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, which are split between the sectors under the EU’s emissions trading scheme for power generation and large industry (ETS) and all others i.e., transport, residential, commercial, agricultural, waste (non-ETS).
The European Union aims for a collective 21% reduction in emissions from the sectors under the ETS by 2020.
Ireland has a 20% reduction target for all non-ETS emissions by 2020, compared to 2005 levels. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (2016), Ireland is unlikely to meet its non-ETS target by 2020.
Perhaps the biggest challenge Ireland faces in meeting its non-ETS targets is how to reduce emissions from a growing agricultural sector as it accounts for almost half of the non-ETS emissions. Increased effort in the transport and heat sectors is also needed to align with emissions targets.
We depend almost exclusively on imported oil to fuel our transport sector in Ireland. Petrol and diesel oil from cars and other vehicles accounts for about one fifth of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. In its expectation of continued economic growth, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) projects that greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector will grow by between 10-12% from 2015 to 2020.
In addition to better fuel economy of private cars due to higher EU standards, the Irish Government has introduced a range of measures to reduce emissions from the transport sector and to meet the mandatory EU 10% renewable transport target by 2020. These include motor tax changes that favour cars in low emission bands (since 2008), a carbon tax (since 2010), a biofuels obligation scheme (since 2010), incentives for the uptake of electric vehicles and investment in new transport infrastructure such as the Luas in Dublin.
In 2015, about 3.3% of energy in transport was from renewable sources, primarily through blending biofuels with petrol or diesel at the pump. This figure is weighted in accordance with EU Directive 2009/28/EC to give 5.7% renewable transport, over half way to the 10% target.
Increasing the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road is the other key proposed means to reduce emissions in the transport sector. In 2008, the Government originally set an ambition for 10% of all vehicles on the road to be electric by 2020 (around 250,000 vehicles) but due to slow uptake this has since been reduced to 50,000. In 2015, there was just over 1,000 electric vehicles on the road. That figure has more than doubled by 2017.
To prevent the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, it is essential that any increase in global temperature stays below 2⁰C. For this to happen, Europe believes it should reduce its energy-related emissions of greenhouse gases by 80% compared to 1990 levels.
This is a huge challenge affecting how we heat and light our homes and offices, power our industries, fuel our cars. Without major changes, global temperatures could increase by as much as 6⁰C by the end of this century. At the 2015 climate summit in Paris, governments committed to limit the increase in world temperature and recognised the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible. But greater and sustained efforts will be needed to tackle the threat.
Ireland has agreed to cut our emissions from electricity generation, buildings and transport by at least 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
Climate change, if unchecked, will certainly lead to greater incidences of flooding in Ireland due to more intense and frequent storms, a decline in water quality and conversely water shortages in summer. There will not only be a human cost to these events (the loss of homes and belongings, along with increased insurance costs), but an economic one too as our natural resources, agricultural practices and tourist industry are affected. The wider issue of geopolitical instability in other regions and its impact on Ireland should not be underestimated.
Ireland is not too small to make a difference. As a global problem we can all play our part in tackling it.
Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions per capita are among the highest in the European Union, exceeded only by Luxembourg and Estonia, owing to the size and nature of our agricultural industry.
Our agricultural output per head of population is much higher than that of Britain, Germany or the Netherlands. Energy industry-related emissions made up 20% of our greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, compared with an EU average of 29%. A recent review by the European Environmental Agency stated that further investment in structural and behavioural changes is needed to meet our EU greenhouse gas emissions reductions target.
When it comes to power generation, we emit less greenhouse gases per kWh than many other countries. However, our per capita emissions in transport and space heating are out of line with other European countries.
Current estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency suggest that we will not meet our EU emission reduction target for 2020.
The EU target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels. To meet this overarching commitment, Ireland has set targets to increase renewables in the electricity, heat and transport sectors (16% of final energy consumption) and improve energy efficiency (20% savings). At present, we are projected to miss these targets – with emissions projected to be 9% – 14% below 2005 levels by 2020.
Areas of the economy that are covered by the EU’s emissions trading scheme (such as electricity generation and energy-intensive industries) are likely to achieve and exceed the 20% target by 2020, but sectors such as agriculture and transport that are not covered by the ETS scheme are projected to fall short.
Yes, our electricity system is, in comparison with some others like Germany, Spain and the UK environmentally friendly; but we will need to do a lot more if we are to continue to play our part in fighting the threat of climate change.
CO2 emissions from power generation in Ireland have fallen by 50% since 1990; we now get 46% more power from the same amount of fuel and 22% of our electricity comes from low carbon and renewable sources of energy.
We will continue to improve on these measures as our electricity system becomes increasingly effective at fighting climate change, thanks to new technology, greater recourse to renewable energy, better access to affordable natural gas, and reduced emissions from coal and gas.
Government and EU action will play a key role in this, particularly through a reformed EU Emissions Trading System, which promotes the use of renewables and will penalise fuels that emit high levels of greenhouse gases in the power generation and industry sectors.
Moneypoint is Ireland’s largest power station providing a stable supply of electricity to meet baseload requirements.
Coal is currently a low cost fuel and is a very competitive fuel for power generation but it has much higher emissions than gas for example. While putting a price on emissions through the EU ETS was meant to dis-incentivise high emission fuels, the current low cost of EU emission permits is not enough to discourage its use. For the time being, and despite their high emissions, coal-fired plants remain profitable across Europe and in Ireland.
The ESB, as owners of Moneypoint, have said that the future of power generation at the station will need to change, although it said this will not happen in the short to medium term. Coal is likely to remain a key element of the country’s power generation mix for the next decade.
If we accept local economic and supply reasons, yes – it creates jobs and investment in the Midlands and provides a guaranteed indigenous source of power. However, environmentalists have called for the phasing out of subsidies for peat arguing that energy policy should not be about job creation.
Bord na Mona has said it will stop extracting peat from existing bogs by 2030 and has said it won’t open any new bogs. It is rolling out a programme to combine the burning of biomass waste with peat and replacing peat with local, regionally sourced and imported biomass.
The three peat-fired stations in Ireland met 8.8% of our electricity needs in 2014 and 2015. However, peat generates high greenhouse emissions and other pollutants. A draft National Peatlands strategy has been developed to address the future for peatland use and extraction.