The Energy White Paper presents a long-term strategic vision that is intended to guide the direction of Irish energy policy from now until 2030. At its heart is a commitment to transform Ireland into a low carbon society and economy by 2050 and reduce the country’s fossil fuel dependency. This ambitious vision for Ireland’s energy system envisages a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from that sector by 80-95% relative to 1990 levels by 2050. The White Paper identifies the importance of diversifying Ireland's energy generation portfolio and largely decarbonising the energy sector by 2050 but also recognises that some fossil fuels will remain significant elements of Ireland’s energy supply in that transition period.
The extent of the challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with our EU and international commitments, is well understood by the Government. The National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development 2014 establishes a long-term objective to pursue substantial decarbonisation of the energy, transport and built environment sectors, as well as pursuing carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land sector. Transition to low carbon electricity generation will be key to successfully meeting this objective.
The National Mitigation Plan 2017 provides a framework to guide investment decisions by Government in domestic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan specifies the policy measures required in order to manage Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions at a level appropriate for making progress towards our long-term national transition objective as set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. It also takes into account existing EU and international obligations on the State in relation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This first Plan begins the process of development of medium- to long-term options to ensure that we are well positioned to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades.
In 2016, imported fossil fuels accounted for 69% of our energy needs at a cost of €3.4 billion. This marks a reduction in our energy import dependency figure which was 88% in 2015 at a cost of €4.6 billion. Renewable electricity generation accounted for 27.2% of gross electricity consumption in 2016. The use of renewables in electricity generation in 2016 reduced CO2 emissions by 3.1 Mt and avoided €192 million in fossil fuel imports.
Published data from the SEAI indicates that 27.2% of electricity, 6.8% of heat and 5.0% of transport energy requirements were met from renewable sources at end 2016. Overall, SEAI analysis shows that 9.5% of Ireland’s energy requirements in 2016 were met from renewable sources. The SEAI projects that Ireland will achieve between 13.2% and 15.4% of its 16% renewable energy target by 2020, indicating that Ireland should be between 82% and 96% of its target. While Ireland has made considerable progress in the decarbonisation of our energy sector in recent years this progress will need to accelerate in pace in the coming years.
While the focus of my Department remains firmly on meeting our 2020 renewable target and on implementation of renewable energy measures, including the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme and the Support Scheme for Renewal Heat, contingency planning has commenced to explore the potential extent, mechanisms and costs of addressing our targets within the framework of the 2009 Directive.