It is the most significant emissions reduction since 2009 recession and is largely due to COVID-19 impacts, with the total energy consumption down by almost 9%, largely due to reductions in transport use. 

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has published Ireland’s 2020 National Energy Balance. Energy is responsible for a little less than 60% of Ireland’s total greenhouse gas emissions and this year’s balance casts a light on the impact of COVID-19 on national energy use.  

Most significant annual reduction

Energy related CO2 emissions fell by 11.5% (4.3 million tonnes) in 2020, which is the most significant annual reduction since the height of the economic recession in 2009. The primary driver of this reduction was lower consumption of oil products for transport, which is mainly attributable to the change in national and international travel patterns due to public health measures.

“The 2020 Energy Balance confirms that we achieved our EU transport target and came very close on the national renewable electricity target," said William Walsh, SEAI CEO. "It also confirms that we have not reached our overall 2020 renewable energy target, and that we achieved just half of our renewable heating and cooling target. Now more than ever, it is essential that we accelerate the deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, and increase sustainable energy practices across all sectors.”

The government’s upcoming Climate Action Plan revision will set a new level of ambition to take fossil fuels out of our energy system. It will include an enhanced suite of actions to achieve targets contained within the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021. These actions will ensure we stay within our carbon budgets and achieve our targets of 51% emissions reduction by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Mass, collective and cohesive action

Walsh concluded: “The data released today illustrates the effect of COVID-19 behaviours on our energy use and indicates the level of impact achievable when there is mass, collective and cohesive action. It is abundantly clear that dramatic change is needed if we want to meet the climate challenge. Business as usual simply won’t do.

"Nothing short of a societal movement to ultimately end the use of fossil fuels is now required. We must start that today and all act together where we can, with the support of Government, to get us on track with these ambitious targets.”

While 2020 saw reductions in overall energy use, particularly in the transport sector, provisional data for 2021 suggests that both road diesel and petrol use, and their related CO2 emissions, have returned to close to pre-pandemic levels following the easing of restrictions.

SEAI offers a range of government funded supports for householders, businesses, and communities who want to reduce their fossil fuel use. For information on these supports and further details from the 2020 Energy Balance visit