Ireland’s energy-related emissions back to pre-pandemic levels, says SEAI

5 Sep 2022

Image: © malp/

Energy demand for transport rose by 8.3pc from 2020, with an increase in car use following the removal of pandemic restrictions.

Following a brief reduction at the beginning of the pandemic, Ireland’s energy-related emissions increased by 5.4pc in 2021.

That’s according to a report published today (5 September) by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), detailing Ireland’s energy use for last year.

It follows a similar recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency, which said Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by nearly 5pc last year and rose above pre-Covid levels.

Ireland has committed to reaching a 51pc reduction in emissions by 2030 under the Climate Action Plan. The country has also committed to reducing emissions by 4.8pc per year from 2021 to 2025 under the first carbon budget.

However, the SEAI report reveals that energy-related emissions are now back at the same level as in 2019, after a temporary reduction due to Covid-19 lockdowns.

An increase in car use following the removal of Covid restrictions was said to be a significant contributor to the increase in emissions for 2021. Energy demand for transport rose by 8.3pc from 2020.

Ireland’s renewable energy share remained unchanged since 2020, at 13.6pc. This was attributed to increased demand for energy and poor delivery of new renewable capacity. In addition, a low wind year in 2021 resulted in more people relying on coal and oil to heat their homes, adding to emissions levels.

Margie McCarthy, director of research and policy insights with SEAI, said that the data shows Ireland’s emissions are “trending in the complete opposite direction of where we need to be”.

She said that the fact Ireland has used a “disproportionate amount” of its carbon budget in 2021 will result “in future years being even more challenging”. She added that the early data from 2022 did not augur well for the reversal of this trend.

Recent European estimates indicated that Ireland saw one of the highest increases in greenhouse gas emissions in the EU in the first quarter of this year.

“We need to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies to levels as yet unseen here in Ireland. Importantly, we also need to drastically increase sustainable energy practices to curtail demand across all sectors of the economy,” McCarthy said.

“Current energy security and costs are bringing this front of mind for homes and businesses across the country. Reducing our use of energy and making the transition to renewable energy technologies are essential in our collective response to this, and ultimately to deliver our national climate action goals.”

Not all of the report was negative, however. Last year was the first ever year that Ireland’s indigenous production of renewables was higher than its indigenous production of natural gas. Most (91.5pc) of the country’s renewable energy is indigenous.

There was also a significant rise in electric vehicles on Irish roads, SEAI said. Meanwhile, more than 11,000 homes received Government grants for home energy upgrades, which contributed to a 4pc reduction of energy demand in that sector.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.