Energy in Ireland 2021 Report
SEAI is Ireland’s national energy authority, investing in and delivering appropriate, effective and sustainable solutions to help Ireland’s transition to a clean energy future. SEAI work with Government, homeowners, businesses and communities to achieve this, through expertise, funding, educational programmes, policy advice, research and the development of new technologies. SEAI is funded by the Government of Ireland through the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications.
SEAI is the official source of energy data for Ireland. They develop and maintain comprehensive national and sectoral statistics for energy production, transformation and end-use. These data are a vital input in meeting international reporting obligations, for advising policymakers and informing investment decisions.
Despite a short reprieve, the global health crisis continues to impact our lives and our energy use. The easing of restrictions on our movement in the second half of 2020 led to a rebound in energy demand and associated emissions. This highlights, once again, the intrinsic link between our lifestyles and our use of fossil fuels.
During 2020, 17,600 homes were upgraded for improved energy efficiency, 4,840 new electric vehicles entered their private car fleet, and 90 public building retrofits were delivered, among a plethora of other measures, with government investment of €121 million disbursed through programs that SEAI delivers, on behalf of Government. Yet emissions today are increasing back towards pre-pandemic levels, following the temporary decline in 2020. These facts demonstrate both a growing appetite in the market for action to decarbonise our energy system, and the persistent link between our economy, energy use and emissions. It’s clear that the rate of deployment of sustainable energy technologies and behaviour change must vastly accelerate.
2020 was a landmark year for energy targets. SEAI have been connected to the EU 2020 targets as their primary objective since they were first set over a decade ago. As illustrated in the pages of this report, SEAI have had mixed success. They have performed strongly against their renewable electricity target and in doing so placed Ireland at the global forefront when it comes to integrating variable renewable energy on our electricity system. They achieved renewable transport target, primarily by blending of petrol and diesel with sustainable biofuels. However, they fell well short of their renewable heat, energy efficiency and emissions related targets. This fact cannot be overlooked, and they must reflect and react in real-time to the lessons learned from this failure.
Since learning of this shortfall Government has taken significant steps to address the gap. SEAI now have some of the most demanding decarbonisation targets globally, with the necessity to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050 now enshrined in Irish law. This will soon be accompanied by sectoral carbon budgets that will serve to further illustrate the need for a drastic acceleration of action. The consequence of slow reaction will be further failure in 2030. With increased budget commitments, a revised Climate Action Plan, and increased focus across all media via a coordinated national movement, SEAI believe achieving the 2030 targets is entirely possible. But they will only be achieved with sustained commitment to action delivered on an emergency footing. There is no precedent from the past that illustrates how quickly we must act. They continue to pull together around the health pandemic, we must do the same around the climate crisis.
At SEAI they continue to work with Government to deliver innovative programmes for all energy users to drive their energy transition. They are coordinating research and analysis to inform the next wave of policy initiatives and supports for society to work together to get this done. SEAI truly believe that as Ireland prioritises this challenge, they will have policy learnings to share and new business models to export globally, as all countries move to tackle the climate crisis. Maya Angelou once said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated”. We now need to apply that same logic to the existential challenge posed by the climate crisis. It’s time to make sure we leave future generations with a planet on which they can thrive. Our actions now will define our legacy.
Read the full report.