Ireland’s 2018 renewable heat use was half of what was targeted for 2020

20 Apr 2020

Image: © David_Steele/

In 2018, Ireland was ranked 27th out of 28 EU countries for progress towards the 2020 renewable energy targets, according to an SEAI report.

While Ireland has not been expected to meet its agreed 2020 renewable energy targets for a number of years, a new report from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has put figures on how wide of the mark Ireland is.

The report showed that Ireland was below the EU average in terms of the progress each member state had made towards meeting its 2020 targets in 2018, having reached 69pc of the overall 2020 target.

This was the second lowest percentage among member states, with the Netherlands being the lowest at just over 50pc. Meanwhile, Croatia was by far the leader in Europe, having exceeded its target to reach 140pc.

The heat is on

Singling out the greatest reason as to why Ireland is failing to achieve its overall renewable energy target, the SEAI pointed to the area of renewable heat. Again, Ireland was ranked 27th out of 28 EU countries, with a national target for 12pc of heat to come from renewable sources.

However, by 2018 this figure was just over half, at 6.5pc, with biomass being the dominant source of renewable heat in the country. The EU renewable heat average was 19.7pc during the same year, with Sweden having the highest share of renewable heat at 65.4pc.

Looking at potential fixes, the authors of the report said: “Despite the lack of past experience of district heating in Ireland, there are significant opportunities for the development of new district heating networks in specific areas that have high heat demand, in particular utilising waste heat.”

Infographic showing levels of renewable heat in Ireland.

Image: SEAI

District heating involves a centralised system where heat from a single source is delivered underground to homes through a network of pipelines – similar to water and electricity. This heat can be sourced from renewables.

When it comes to renewable electricity generation, Ireland was ranked 12th in the EU overall and in second place looking specifically at electricity generated by wind (28.1pc). The report noted that many of the leading EU countries had renewable hydroelectricity as their main source.

Ireland’s transport sector was also noted as one of the biggest contributors to the country’s carbon emissions. Biodiesel accounted for 82pc of Ireland’s renewable transport energy in 2018.

Renewable electricity, meanwhile, accounted for just 1.4pc of transport energy use. Dart and Luas services in Dublin are the largest users of electricity for transport, but the SEAI noted that the number of electric cars on Irish roads is increasing.

Overall, fossil fuels still accounted for 97pc of all transport energy in the country.

Need to transition fast

“This report demonstrates the challenges we face in transitioning away from fossil fuels, said Jim Scheer, head of policy insights and design at the SEAI.

“We need to eliminate energy waste and transition to using more renewable sources of energy like wind, solar, heat pumps and bioenergy as quickly as we can.”

Commenting on the report’s findings, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton, TD, said that the figures from 2018 don’t reflect actions since taken under the Government’s Climate Action Plan.

“Getting back on track for our 2030 target is only the first step,” he said. “We now need to identify how we can increase that ambition and set new targets for 2030 and 2050.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic