The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has published the Interim National Energy Balance for 2023, which tells us how much energy Ireland used, and where it came from last year. 

National energy related emissions decreased by 7.3%, reaching their lowest level in 30 years. It is critically important to recognise the impact of current actions in increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy and the importance of accelerating these activities. Ireland is not yet on track to remain within its 2021-2025 carbon budget.

Analysis indicates that our only chance to meet our overall emissions targets depends on even higher annual reductions of over 11% for 2024 and 2025.         

Increased use of electricity imported

SEAI estimates that emissions from electricity generation were down by 21% in 2023, due to increased use of electricity imported through international interconnectors and increased renewable generation in Ireland. 

2023 set a record for the net import of electricity through interconnectors, with a 12-fold increase on the previous year, meaning Ireland used less fossil generation than in 2022. The net import of electricity through interconnectors accounted for 9.5% of electricity supply in 2023, making it the third largest source of electricity in Ireland after natural gas and wind. 

In 2023, Ireland set new highs for wind generation, solar generation, heat-pump installations, EV registrations, and biofuel blending. This progress is very welcome, but it is important we rapidly build on this to achieve significant and sustained increases in these technologies across Ireland.

For example, while solar electricity generation increased by over 300% in 2023, it still accounted for just 1.9% of Ireland’s electricity supply. And a new record of 11.7 TWh of wind generation was set in 2023 (the extra wind generation recorded in 2023 is equivalent to the electricity needs of 115,000 homes).

Yet Ireland needs to install 27% more wind capacity to reach its 2025 milestone. Ireland remains heavily dependent on both fossil fuels and imported energy, with over 80% of energy coming from fossil fuels, and almost 80% of energy imported.

Margie McCarthy, director of research and policy insights at SEAI said: Firstly, the reduction in energy-related emissions in 2023 is encouraging, it shows movement in the right direction in some sectors. It is clear from the data that pace is critical. We have no time to wait. SEAI’s mission is to be at the heart of Ireland’s energy revolution, and that revolution needs fast action right across Irish society to meet our legally binding climate targets.

Increased government supports

"We must redouble our collective efforts to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. This must be driven by increased government supports, full and timely realisation of our climate action plans, and importantly support from wider society through citizen and community action. We will only create the change needed if we tackle this together as an urgent priority.”

Transport is an area where collective action is needed urgently. There has been increased demand and emissions from transport in 2023, with an almost full return to pre-COVID levels of petrol and diesel demand.

Ireland used 1.36 billion litres of jet kerosene in 2023, the highest annual energy demand in air travel ever recorded, up 12.7% on the previous year. Curbing transport will require better land use planning, a meaningful shift towards active travel and public transport, and more efficient and renewable modes of private transport. We need behaviours to change and services in place to support them.