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Evidence of positive policy impact on Ireland's energy related emissions – SEAI

2017 has seen "a welcome fall" in emissions in spite of strong economic growth. In 2017 Modified Domestic Demand – the new measure of economic activity – grew in Ireland by 3.9 percent while energy use grew by only 0.2 percent and energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell by 2.2 percent according to a new report from Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

According to SEAI, energy emission analysis shows that Ireland is beginning to see the very real impact of government policy, led by Minister Naughten, and SEAI related activity. The figures show that in 2017 a return to an absolute decoupling of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from economic growth (graphic courtesy SEAI).

According to the report “Energy-Related CO2 Emissions in Ireland 2005-2016“, one significant contributor to the fall in emissions was the change in fuel mix in electricity generation which saw a reduction in coal (-21%) and peat (-6.4%) and a substantial increase in renewables (+18%). As a result, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electricity production dropped by nearly 10 percent.

In 2017, 30 percent of Irish electricity came from renewables, with the vast majority of that coming from wind. This is the third highest share of electricity demand from wind in the EU and more than double the EU average. Early indications from 2018 would suggest that wind energy’s contribution to decarbonisation has continued to grow.

Using renewable energy for heat, electricity, and transport resulted in avoiding the emissions of 4.2 million tonnes CO2, equivalent to the CO2 emissions of almost three-quarters of the car fleet (1.4 million cars). A mandated increase in the use of sustainable fuel blending in petrol and diesel has meant that although transport-related energy use grew by a large amount, there was a much lesser growth in transport-related emissions.

In addition, there was a reduction in emissions from the building stock due to increases in building standards and the ongoing retrofit programmes operated by SEAI for both homes and commercial properties

SEAI points out that Ireland has “excellent renewable energy resources”, which will be a critical component of Irish energy supply to 2030 and beyond. “It decreases our carbon dioxide emissions and enhances energy security by reducing Ireland’s dependence on imported fuels. We need to continue to support and expand renewable energy development in Ireland,” SEAI said

This report demonstrates the complexity and at times volatility of Ireland’s transition to a cleaner energy system as the economic recovery continues apace. SEAI says that “absolute decoupling of emissions from economic growth must be our aim. This is influenced by a combination of prices, and policies, including policies pertaining to the type of economic growth we pursue as a country.”

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