The Ireland National Committee aims to promote sustainable energy development in Ireland, as a part of the World Energy Council’s energy vision. As a member of the World Energy Council network, the organisation is committed to representing the Irish perspective within national, regional and global energy debates. The committee includes a variety of members to ensure that the diverse energy interests of Ireland are appropriately represented. Members of the committee are invited to attend high-level events, participate in energy-focused study groups, contribute to technical research and be a part of the global energy dialogue.
Energy in Ireland
Ireland’s energy leaders shape an Uncertainties landscape led by decarbonisation-related issues. Oil is the dominant fuel in the country’s energy mix, used in the heating and transport sectors [SEAI 2018]. Decarbonisation of the energy mix is an Action Priority as is the decoupling of economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions from what is still a fossil-fuel based energy mix. EU cohesion in the post-Brexit era is closely related to energy security and economic growth prospects.
Innovative Transport is perceived as an issue of high uncertainty and high impact. Transport accounted for 42% of final energy consumption in 2018, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. Ireland is aiming for a 10% share of renewables in final energy consumption by 2020, as established by the EU Renewable Energy Directive. Concerns revolve around the fact that low carbon fuels such as CNG and electric vehicles have not had the support or penetration expected, forcing a reliance on biofuels to reach targets.
Climate Framework appears as a Critical Uncertainty, reflecting concerns over Ireland’s ability to meet the EU emissions target by 2020, as well as increased public pressure to act on the Climate Emergency. In 2017, the Irish government committed to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions (a minimum of 80% reduction from the 1990 value) across all sectors by 2050. In 2019, it launched a Climate Action Plan to 2030, which would be consistent with the net zero target for 2050.
Energy Subsidies are closely related to the Climate Framework issue. The revised Renewable Energy Directive (RED II), when implemented, will provide support to renewable energy projects. This policy can enable Ireland to broaden the renewable electricity technology mix, enhance energy security and sustainability while ensuring cost effectiveness. Other concerns are the Infrastructural interconnection with the UK and Europe, reliance on imported fossil fuels as well as the recent implementation of annual increases in the carbon tax to 2030.
EU Cohesion is perceived as a high impact and low uncertainty issue. The issue of the border with Northern Ireland post-Brexit and the implications for trade and energy with its closest trading partner are a major concern since Ireland imports a large percentage of its oil products and natural gas through the UK.
Renewable Energies appear as another Action Priority. Ireland has made much progress in expanding renewables deployment. Overall, 30.1% of electricity was generated from renewable energy in 2017 which avoided €278m worth of fossil fuel imports [SEAI 2018]. The government’s Climate Action Plan (launched in 2019) sets out the goal of achieving a 70% share of renewable energy in 2030, though this will have to be accompanied by storage solutions. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions from what is still an energy system heavily dependent on fossil fuels is another challenge. Offshore wind projects are only starting to be developed and CCS and Hydrogen still need development.
Economic Growth is a lower Action Priority but is still relevant in terms of its impact on energy use and greenhouse emissions. Ireland has had difficulty separating economic growth from greenhouse emissions. Carbon-related emissions declined during the 2008 economic downturn but rose again as the economy improved. Ireland has abundant natural wind resources and has the potential to lead offshore renewable energy deployment and become a net exporter of electricity.