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Energy emissions not falling fast enough to stay within carbon budget

Energy emissions dropped slightly last year but are still not falling quickly enough to comply with national limits, according to the SEAI.

IRELAND’S ENERGY EMISSIONS are not falling fast enough to stay within the sector’s share of the legally-binding carbon budget.

Fossil fuels were used to meet 85% of primary energy requirements in 2022, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Energy emissions dropped slightly last year but are still not dropping quickly enough to comply with national limits.

The SEAI’s new Energy in Ireland report details that total energy demand rose by 4.7% last year compared to 2021.

Energy emissions fell by 1.7%, the lowest level of the last 25 years except for in 2020 during Covid-19 restrictions. They fell in heat (-1.0 MtCO2) and electricity generation (-0.2 MtCO2), but rose in transport (+0.6 MtCO2).
35.6% of energy-related emissions came from heat, 34.3% from transport, and 30.1% from electricity generation.

The SEAI’s Director of Research and Policy Insights Margie McCarthy has warned that “despite the excellent progress made on renewable electricity, the momentum of our home energy upgrades, and the uptake of electric vehicles, Ireland remains highly dependent on imported fossil fuels to satisfy our energy needs”.

Ireland imported 81.6% of its total primary energy requirement last year.

“Our investments in energy efficiency and our development of indigenous renewable energy sources are slowly starting to break that dependency,” McCarthy said.

“We can point to significant inroads in biofuel use in transport, in the deployment of larger solar farms, and the displacement of fossil fuels through heat pumps.

However, it is all too slow. Unless we accelerate, the pace of change will not be enough for us to achieve our national and EU obligations.

McCarthy said that “despite all the evidence, we are not yet acting in line with what climate science tells us, that we are living through a climate emergency”.

The SEAI has also released the results of its Behavioural Energy and Travel Tracker, a monthly survey that gathers data about how people in Ireland use energy.

During the 2022/2023 heating season, most reported a high understanding of how to save energy and said they were making a substantial effort to use energy efficiently.

However, the tracker identified a number of areas where there is “room for improvement”.

Over one in five participants travelled by car for a short journey in any given day (an average of 15% for a journey under 2 km, and 10% for a journey under 5 km where public transport was available).

Up to 40% of people heated empty rooms or an unoccupied home, more than 10% took long or multiple showers/baths in a given day, and more than a quarter used energy-intensive cooking appliances to cook a small number of portions.

Around one in five used a tumble dryer on a given day and up to 42% used their washing machine inefficiently (running it on a high temperature, not using eco settings, or not running a full load).

“Around 45% of Ireland’s energy use is for direct personal consumption, primarily in our homes and in our cars. So, it is absolutely essential that we all become more energy efficient to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions; to insulate ourselves from high energy prices; and to reduce the chance of outages or fuel shortages,” McCarthy said.

“We also need systemic change, beyond what individuals can do, to address the current energy and climate crises. This report shows that while the activities of governments and systems are crucial, the everyday choices that people make have a major role to play.”

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