Powering an island is a complicated business, even before concerns over energy security and the climate crisis are taken into account.
Despite seemingly ample sources of wind, Ireland remains one of Europe’s most oil-reliant States – although the proportion of energy generated using renewable sources is slowly increasing.
Here we break down exactly where Ireland gets its energy from…
Where does Ireland get its energy from?
Ireland’s energy largely comes from four different sources – petroleum products, natural gas, renewables and solid fossil fuels.
Petroleum products, including crude oil, is the most dominant source by far, accounting for close to half (45.9 per cent) of Ireland’s energy mix in 2020, according to Eurostat. The country has one of the highest rates of oil dependency in the European Union.
Next is natural gas, which supplied 32.8 per cent of the country’s energy in 2020.
This is followed by renewable sources like wind, which accounted for 12.7 per cent of Ireland’s energy in 2020, and lastly solid fossil fuels like coal which made up 8.6 per cent.
Where do these energy sources originally come from?
Ireland is largely dependent on imports for its two largest energy sources, oil and natural gas, while the majority of renewable energy is sourced at home, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).
Ireland imports almost all of its oil, apart from a small amount of indigenous biofuel production. This is unlikely to change in the future, given the policy position that there will be no future licensing for offshore oil exploration.
Natural gas is, meanwhile, supplied by a combination of domestic production and imports via pipeline from Scotland. In 2019, just over half (53 per cent) of Ireland’s natural gas was imported from the UK – which itself imports a large amount of its gas.
Domestic natural gas production is on the decline, with supply from the Corrib gas field having already peaked. Following the field’s depletion, Ireland is expected to be dependent on over 80 per cent imports by the mid-2020s and over 90 per cent by 2030.
So how secure is Ireland’s energy supply?
Energy import dependency is one of the simplest and most widely-used indicators of a country’s energy security, with indigenous energy sources generally considered more secure than imported ones.
Ireland is one of the most import dependent countries in the EU, according to the SEAI’s Energy Security in Ireland 2020 report, largely owing to its reliance on imported oil and gas.
The country’s import dependency was 67 per cent in 2018, down from an average of 89 per cent between 2001 and 2015, with the improvement mostly due to the production of gas at Corrib and increasing use of indigenous renewable energy.
Looking to 2030, further replacing imported oil and gas with energy efficiency and indigenous renewable supplies would improve Ireland’s future energy security score.
However, because oil and gas account for the vast majority of Ireland’s primary energy and because the country is likely to become more reliant on non-EU oil and gas as EU supplies decline, the SEAI has said it is likely the score will decrease over the next decade.
Why the major reliance on oil and gas?
Most of Ireland’s oil is used in the transport sector, which has near-total dependence on oil-based products. It also consumed the largest share of Ireland’s energy in 2019, guzzling 42 per cent.