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Ireland missed its overall renewable energy target for 2020

Ireland’s overall share of renewable energy in 2020 was 13.5% and the target was 16%.

IRELAND DID NOT meet its binding target to have a 16% share of renewable energy by 2020, according to a new report from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). 

The SEAI released its annual Energy in Ireland 2021 report which looks at trends in energy use and related carbon emissions in 2020. 

It found that the overall share of renewable energy in Ireland last year was 13.5%. 

Ireland and other EU countries have a number of EU greenhouse gas emission targets.

In a recent statement to The Journal, the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications said the latest estimates indicate that Ireland will need to purchase an extra 3.8 million credits to comply with its EU Effort Sharing Decision targets, which will cost between €6 million and €13 million.

Ireland did reach its target for EU renewable transport energy of 10% and the share of renewable electricity was 39.1%, just below the 40% target for this sector.

The country achieved just half of its renewable heating and cooling target – hitting 6.3% instead of 12%.  

Energy from renewable sources grew by 8.9% in 2020. The SEAI is the official source of energy data in Ireland. 

Ireland’s total energy use last year reduced by almost 9%, which the SEAI said was “due largely to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic”. 

Energy-related emissions also fell by 11.4%. It said these are the most significant annual reductions since 2009 during the economic recession.

The CEO of the SEAI, William Walsh, said that “practically all reductions” in energy consumptions were from the transport sector. Domestic and international travel restrictions were in place at different points in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“However, early data from 2021 indicates that energy use in the transport sector is returning to pre-Covid-19 levels,” Walsh said in a statement.

It is notable that the reduction in CO2 emissions seen in 2020 is less than the amount that will need to be achieved every year from 2021 to 2030 to meet our long-term decarbonisation goals.

“Now more than ever, it is essential that we accelerate the elimination of fossil fuels with energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and increase sustainable energy practices across all sectors.”

Energy consumption in the transport sector reduced by almost a quarter in 2020. 

Consumption of fuel for road vehicles reduced by 13.6% for diesel and 25.9% for petrol in 2020. 

Peat use reduced by one-third last year, which the SEAI said was primarily due to a halving of peat used for electricity generation.

However, emissions from heating increased slightly. The SEAI said this was mostly due to an increase in oil use. 

42% of all electricity generated last year came from renewable sources. Emissions from electricity must reduce by 62-81% by 2030 under government climate plans. 

Walsh said that “as a society we will need to implement huge changes, and fast” for Ireland to meets its legally binding targets of reducing emissions by 51% by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050.

“We can create a better country in the process with more vibrant communities, better air quality, more comfortable homes, cleaner energy sources, and an economy built on sustainable industries and jobs – rather than one reliant on fossil fuels.”

Meeting targets 

EU member states can meet their emissions targets under the Effort Sharing Decision through unused emissions allowances from earlier years, buying allowances from other EU states or buying international credits.

As part of this, Ireland must reduce emissions by 20% from sectors outside of the EU Emissions Trading System. This includes agriculture, buildings, transport and waste. 

In a statement to The Journal, the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications said EU member states can meet their targets under the ESD through unused emissions allowances from earlier years, buying allowances from other EU states or buying international credits. 

Ireland has paid a total of €50 million up to December 2020 for a ‘statistical transfer’ of renewable energy to make up for a shortfall in meeting targets. This included €37.5 million paid to Estonia and €12.5 million paid to Denmark. 

“A condition of the agreements was that Estonia/Denmark should use the revenues received for accelerating deployment of renewable electricity production in the respective Member States, to meet renewable energy targets of the European Union and their national energy and climate plan (NECP) renewable targets,” the department said. 

Additional reporting by Niall Sargent. 

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