Ireland saw energy-related emissions back to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, with a 5.4% increase, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).
The latest statistics reveal they are now back to the same level as 2019, with a rebound in car use after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions becoming a significant contributor to the increased emissions.
Energy demand for transport rose by 8.3% in 2021 following a “significant suppression” in 2020.
In addition, increased demand for energy combined with a modest delivery of new green capacity and low wind generation resulted in Ireland’s renewable energy share remaining unchanged at 13.6%.
The low wind year led to an increased consumption of coal and oil in electricity generation to meet requirements, further adding to emissions levels.
The SEAI suggests a notable positive for 2021 was it was the first year Ireland’s indigenous production of renewables was higher than its indigenous natural gas production.
In addition, there was a “significant rise” in the use electric vehicles (EVs) and more than 11,000 homes received government grants for home energy upgrades, which led to a 4% fall in energy demand in the sector.
However, more than 700,000 homes remain on oil for heating and more than 4,000 homes were newly-added to the gas network, maintaining and extending the nation’s dependency on fossil fuels in the buildings sector.
Ireland has committed to reducing CO2 emissions by 4.8% per year from 2021 to 2025 under the first carbon budget.
Margie McCarthy, Director of Research and Policy Insights said: “Overall, the Energy Balance shows us that in the first year of our legally binding carbon budgets, we have seen emissions trending in the complete opposite direction of where we need to be. This means we have used a disproportionate amount of our carbon budget in 2021, which results in future years being even more challenging. In addition, looking at the early data from 2022, this trend is worryingly continuing.
“We need to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy technologies to levels as yet unseen here in Ireland. Importantly we also need to drastically increase sustainable energy practices to curtail demand across all sectors of the economy. Current energy security and costs are bringing this front of mind for homes and businesses across the country. Reducing our use of energy and making the transition to renewable energy technologies are essential in our collective response to this, and ultimately to deliver our national climate action goals.”