Energy emissions are rising as heavy reliance on fossil fuels continues

IRELAND has not reduced its dependency on fossil fuels, with recent reports showing increases in gas, oil and coal consumption and hence rising carbon emissions.

The trends are in stark contrast to national targets and pose major challenges to our legally binding climate protection targets.

A recovery in car use to pre-Covid levels and a general economic recovery are the main drivers of the surge, according to an analysis by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Electricity, heating and transport increased energy use by 2.1 percent last year, with 86 percent of electricity coming from fossil fuels.

Energy use for transportation alone increased by 7.2 percent, with a staggering 95.5 percent of that coming from fossil fuels.

This increased overall energy-related emissions by 5.4 percent, at a time when we should have reduced national emissions by 4.8 percent.

Worse is yet to come. SEAI says it’s likely that total energy use will have increased a further 6 percent by the end of this year, with a 6 percent increase in energy-related emissions – when a further 4.8 percent reduction is due.

Traffic alone is expected to see an 18% increase in energy consumption this year.

A return to normal activity may be welcome, but the SEAI warns: “While we may want to move beyond COVID, we must reduce Ireland’s energy needs while pursuing our Climate Action Plan 2030 targets.

“Current progress in switching to renewable energies and avoiding fossil fuels is not enough to achieve our climate protection goals.”

The analysis produces some amazing statistics that show how energy dependent certain sectors are and how deeply embedded fossil fuels are in our economy and society.

Gentle winds in 2021 meant more electricity had to be generated by burning fossil fuels, pushing up coal use by 104.3 percent and oil use by 5.8 percent.

Even with a 36.5 percent reduction in peat use, greater use of fossil fuels increased carbon emissions from power generation by 12.5 percent.

In 2021, we imported 80 percent of our entire energy needs.

Data centers used as much electricity as a million households last year.

Despite the complexities involved in keeping energy flowing across all sectors, Margie McCarthy, SEAI Research Director, said Ireland must continue to focus on annual carbon budgets.

“The results show that we are going in the wrong direction as our carbon budgets require a 4.8 percent reduction in emissions, but in 2021 we have a 5.4 percent increase in energy emissions,” she said.

“We urgently need to transition to renewable energy and use less oil, gas, coal and peat for our energy needs today to avoid making our future years even more difficult.”

SEAI says more onshore and offshore wind and solar power and more energy storage facilities need to be developed as a priority.

It also emphasizes the need to reduce the use of petrol and diesel vehicles and to replace as many journeys as possible with public transport, walking and cycling.

Where private cars remain a necessity, policies to encourage the switch to electric vehicles must continue.

District heating from waste heat sources must be used on a large scale to replace gas and oil in central heating.

Upgrading homes to high energy efficiency standards needs to be accelerated, and heat pumps need to replace oil and gas boilers.

“Every year counts,” Ms McCarthy said. “If a goal is missed in one year, the following years will be more demanding.” Energy emissions are rising as heavy reliance on fossil fuels continues

Fry Electronics Team

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