SEAI report shows we’re way behind 2020 energy targets

6 Apr 2016

Ahead of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s (SEAI) Energy Show, the organisation has released a report on how Ireland is doing in meeting its energy targets for 2020, but it’s not easy reading.

The SEAI report, released this morning (6 April), specifically looks at how Ireland is doing in achieving its energy targets set out by the EU of having 16pc of our energy production met by renewable energy by 2020.

Last year, the organisation claimed that Ireland was doing rather well in terms of reaching this target by saying that as a nation we had reached the halfway point, with Ireland’s 2013 renewable energy production contributing 7.8pc of the country’s final energy demand.

Given that it is now over a year later, the SEAI’s figure of 8.6pc achieved by 2015 shows that in reality little progress has been made and, if we are indeed to meet the target of 16pc, the SEAI says that ‘accelerated actions are now needed’ to meet that target.

Renewable heating for 300,000 homes

For example, the report says that between 200MW and 250MW of wind capacity will need to be installed across the country each year by 2020 to contribute sufficient amounts of clean energy to meet our target.

Yet, despite a relatively bountiful 2014 where 270MW was installed, the average over the last five years has been 177MW.

Equally challenging will be the need to install renewable heating options in 300,000 homes, 3,000 public sector buildings and 200 large industrial sites, which might prove more than challenging in the almost three-and-a-half years until the deadline.

SEAI forecast

Where we need to be in terms of energy production and sources by 2020. Image via SEAI

EVs need to catch up fast

The biggest issue, however, has been seen with electric vehicles (EVs). Despite huge interest in the likes of Tesla’s new Model 3 ‘EV for the masses’, Ireland is woefully behind the necessary number of electric vehicles needed to aid our efforts.

Last year, EVs accounted for 0.23pc (562 vehicles) of all of the cars on Irish roads, but going by the SEAI’s recommendation, we should be aiming to have 20pc of all cars being EVs, or close to 50,000 vehicles.

The report does not just focus on doom and gloom, however, as it has highlighted some major improvements seen in terms of energy production and efficiency, with as much as 6m tonnes of CO2 emissions reduced each year as a result of actions taken in Ireland over the past few years.

SEAI timeline

What our efforts to make 2020 target looks like. Image via SEAI

Not all doom and gloom

There have also been indications that Ireland’s attractiveness as a place for data centres for the largest tech companies will encourage more renewable energy production here to help us meet our agreed targets.

The clock is certainly now ticking for the eventual incoming government to begin ramping up a focus on renewable technologies as, under the agreement reached with the EU, Ireland will face significant financial penalties if our 16pc target is not met.

Commenting on the report, Dr Eimear Cotter, head of low-carbon technologies with SEAI, said: “Meeting our energy targets represent a huge economic and societal opportunity for the country – an opportunity too good to let pass. This report is the first of its kind to give a sense of the scale of what needs to be done to meet our binding EU energy targets by 2020.

“It demonstrates that the energy system must be looked at in its entirety with energy use in transport, and heat and power generation all inextricably linked – with efficiency and renewables options in all sectors.”

Tralee wind farm image via Vincent MacNamara/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic