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Affordable and Clean Energy


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100% of households in Ireland have access to electricity

SDG 7.1.1 Proportion of population with access to electricity.

The Rural Electrification Scheme 1954 connected 80% of rural households in Ireland to electricity.  About two million homes are now connected to the electricity supply.  A portion of these are vacant at any one time for various reasons, including holiday homes, vacant houses, houses for sale or for rent, new builds and dwellings being refurbished (Source: Energy Institute).  The Census of Population counted approximately 1.7 million households in 2016.

The electricity network in Ireland is operated and maintained by ESB Networks (ESBN) but the supply of electricity is privatised.  Households are free to choose an electricity supplier from a choice of private companies.  Many energy suppliers provide both electricity and gas, and offer a range of services to their customers, including a variety of payment arrangements.

Vulnerable customers
Vulnerable customers who are registered as priority services customers cannot be disconnected.  Elderly vulnerable customers who have problems paying their bills cannot be disconnected during the winter months (November to March).

Social welfare assistance

People aged over 70 years are entitled to an electricity allowance, as part of the Household Benefits Package.  Some people under 70 years may also qualify if they meet certain criteria.  The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is the regulator of the electricity industry and has more information about disconnection and your rights. 

Further information regarding electricity services is also available at Citizens Information.

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SDG 7.1.2 Proportion of Population with Primary Reliance on Clean Fuels and Technology is reported by the CSO, in the Census of Population from an Environment Perspective 2011 and 2016.

Note: the definition of 'Clean Fuels and technology' in the context of SDG 7.1.2 is given below.

In the UN metadata document for SDG 7.1.2, clean fuels and technology for cooking, heating and lighting, are described as follows:

 “Clean” is defined by the emission rate targets and specific fuel recommendations (i.e. against unprocessed coal and kerosene) included in the normative guidance WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: household fuel combustion.

The metadata document also states:

'The indicator uses the type of primary fuels and technologies used for cooking, heating, and lighting as a practical surrogate for estimating human exposure to household (indoor) air pollution and its related disease burden, as it is not currently possible to obtain nationally representative samples of indoor concentrations of criteria pollutants, such as fine particulate matter and carbon monoxide'.

The concept note in the metadata document states:

'Current global data collection focuses on the primary fuel used for cooking, categorized as solid or nonsolid fuels, where solid fuels are considered polluting and non-modern, while non-solid fuels are considered clean.  This single measure captures a good part of the lack of access to clean cooking fuels, but fails to collect data on type of device or technology that is used for cooking, and also fails to capture other polluting forms of energy use in the home such as those used for lighting and heating. 

New evidence-based normative guidance from the WHO (i.e. WHO Guidelines for indoor air quality guidelines: household fuel combustion), highlights the importance of addressing both fuel and the technology for adequately protecting public health.  These guidelines provide technical recommendations in the form of emissions targets for as to what fuels and technology (stove, lamp, and so on) combinations in the home are clean.  These guidelines also recommend against the use of unprocessed coal and discourage the use of kerosene (a non-solid but highly polluting fuel) in the home.  They also recommend that all major household energy end uses (e.g. cooking, space heating, lighting) use efficient fuels and technology combinations to ensure health benefits. 

For this reason, the technical recommendations in the WHO guidelines, access to modern cooking solution in the home will be defined as “access to clean fuels and technologies” rather than “access to non-solid fuels.”  This shift will help ensure that health and other “nexus” benefits are better counted, and thus realized'.

The Census of Population 2016 reports on central heating fuel types used in households, categorised as oil,
natural gas, electricity, coal, peat, wood, LPG, other, no central heating and not stated.  Oil, gas, coal, peat and LPG would be classed at fossil fuels.  Wood is classed as renewable. 

Census figures show that 85.8% of Irish households were reliant on fossil fuels for their primary heating fuel, with 8.7% reliant on electricity and 2.0% on renewables (wood).

Table 4.1 shows that oil was the most popular type of central heating in 2016, used by 41% of households. 

Natural gas was the second most popular at 34% of households.  

There was no central heating in 1.4% of households (23,000 homes).  See Table 4.1 and Figure 4.1.

Show Table: 4.1 - SDG 7.1.2 Occupied Private Households by Central Heating Fuel

Total Number of Households by Central Heating Fuel, 2016
No Central Heating1.38033183177236
Natural Gas33.9330575070247
Not Stated1.24409908141917

Wexford had the highest proportion of occupied private households using coal at 16% in 2016, followed by Donegal at 15%.

Offaly had the highest percentage of occupied households using peat as their main central heating fuel at 38% in 2016.

In contrast, almost three-quarters of occupied households in South Dublin, Fingal, and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown used natural gas as their main central heating fuel in 2016.

Table 4.2 shows central heating fuel by county.  Map 4.1 and Map 4.2 show breakdown of households using oil and gas per county.

Show Table: 4.2 - SDG 7.1.2 Central Heating Fuel in Occupied Private Households by County

Three in ten households where a student was the reference person used electricity for central heating in 2016, the highest proportion by principal economic status.

In contrast, oil was used in about half (49%) of households where the reference person was retired.

Coal was used by about one in ten (11%) of households where the reference person was unemployed or unable to work due to sickness or disability.  See Table 4.3.

Show Table: 4.3 - SDG 7.1.2 Central Heating Fuel in Occupied Private Households by Principal Economic Status of Reference Person

Households with a female reference person were more likely to use natural gas at 38% compared with 31% for those headed by a male.

Oil was more likely to be used in a household with a male reference person at 43% compared with 38% for females.  See Table 4.4.

Show Table: 4.4 - SDG 7.1.2 Central Heating Fuel in Occupied Private Households by Sex of Reference Person

About four in ten (40.9%) of private households used oil for central heating in 2016, and this proportion rose to about five in ten (50.3%) for households with a reference person aged 75 years and over.

Just under one in ten (8.7%) of all private households used electricity in 2016, but this proportion rose to about two in ten (20.7%) for households where the reference person was aged 18-34 years.

Households where the reference persons were aged 75 years and over were more likely to either be using solid fuel or to have no central heating.  See Table 4.5 and Figure 4.2.

Show Table: 4.5 - SDG 7.1.2 Central Heating Fuel in Occupied Private Households by Age Group of Reference Person

18-34 Years35-44 Years45-64 Years65-74 Years75 Years and Over
Natural Gas39.240706370936641.41049693236832.175958740357625.906010673242225.90961419252
No Central Heating1.616347231665410.8379612456267231.214980512209531.780073614773352.28945892493432
Not Stated2.227163306933241.237460603812461.0028208317870.9264842196204070.99064261888597

Households where the reference person had very bad health were more likely to use coal or peat or to have no central heating.  In 2016, 5.4% of households used peat but this proportion rose to 6.3% where the reference person had very bad health.  Coal was used by 5.2% of all households but this rose to 9.3% where the health of the reference person was very bad.  See Table 4.6.

Show Table: 4.6 - SDG 7.1.2 Central Heating Fuel in Occupied Private Households by Health of Reference Person

According to the QNHS Module on Household Environmental Behaviours survey 65% of households used electricity as their main cooking fuel, 13% used natural gas and 12% used a combination of gas and electricity in 2014.

The combination of electricity and gas was more prevalent in recently built dwellings with 16% of households constructed since 2001 using this combination.

Rural areas had a higher reliance on LPG for their cooking needs (16%) while urban areas used this source in only 3% of households.  Electricity was the main cooking fuel for 82% of apartments.  See Table 4.7 and Map 4.3.

Show Table: 4.7 - SDG 7.1.2 What is the Main Fuel Used for Cooking?

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SDG 7.2.1 Renewable energy share in the total final energy consumption is reported by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

The information provided here for indicator SDG 7.2.1 is summarised from the SEAI 2020 Reports - SEAI Renewable Energy in Ireland 2020 Update and SEAI Energy in Ireland 2020 Report.

Transport renewable energy was 8.9% in 2019 with a target of 10% for 2020

Key Points (Extract from Renewable Energy in Ireland Report)

  • Overall renewable energy supply was 12% of gross final consumption in 2019.  Ireland has a binding EU target of 16% by 2020.                                                               
  • Ireland is not on track to meet 2020 renewable energy targets.
  • Ireland had the second lowest progress to meeting the overall RES target of all EU Member States.
  • The share of renewable transport energy (RES-T), including adjustments, was 8.9% in 2019.  Ireland has a binding EU target of 10% by 2020.
  • The share of renewable electricity (RES-E) was 36.5% in 2019.  Ireland has a national target of 40% by 2020.
  • The share of renewable heat (RES-H) was 6.3% in 2019.  Ireland has a national target of 12% by 2020. 

Progress towards renewable energy targets (Extract from SEAI Energy in Ireland Report 2020, Section 6.1)

The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) is the most important legislation influencing the growth of renewables in the European Union (EU) and Ireland. 

The RED sets out two mandatory targets for renewable energy in Ireland to be met by 2020.

The first relates to overall renewable energy share (RES), and is commonly referred to as the overall RES target.  For Ireland, the overall RES target is for at least 16% of gross final energy consumption (GFC) to come from renewable sources in 2020.

The second mandatory target set by the RED relates to the renewable energy used for transport.  This is commonly referred to as the RES-T target.  The RES-T target is for at least 10% of energy consumed in road and rail transport to come from renewable sources.

In addition to these EU mandatory targets, Ireland has two further national renewable energy targets for 2020.  These are for the electricity and heat sectors and are designed to help Ireland meet the overall RES target.  

The renewable heat target is commonly referred to as the RES-H target.  The RES-H target is for 12% of energy used for heating and cooling to come from renewable sources in 2020.

The renewable electricity target is commonly referred to as the RES-E target.  The RES-E target is for 40% of gross electricity consumption to come from renewable sources in 2020.  See Figure 4.3.

X-axis labelProgress to Renewable Energy Targets, 20192020 Targets
Overall Renewable Energy1216
Transport 8.910

Table 4.8 shows the progress towards the individual national modal targets and towards the overall RED target for the period 2005-2019.  Here, the percentages in each row (RES-E, RES-T and RES-H) relate to the specific modal targets, while the percentages in the final row relate to the overall target, using the definition in the RED.

RES-E increased by 3.2 percentage points between 2018 and 2019, to 36.5% (towards the 40% 2020 target).
RES-T increased to 8.9% (towards the 10% 2020 target) from 7.2% in 2018.
RES-H remained at 6.3% in 2019, unchanged from 2018 (towards the 12% 2020 target).

Show Table: Table 4.8 - SDG 7.2.1 Renewable Energy Progress to Targets

Renewable energy targets

Information on renewable energy targets is extracted from the 2020 Report.

At least 16% of gross final energy consumption (GFC) in Ireland must come from renewables by 2020.  This is a mandatory target under the EU Renewable Energy Directive.  It is commonly referred to as “the overall RES target”. 

Figure 4.4 shows the growth in renewable energy as a share of GFC.  In 2019 the overall renewable energy share in Ireland was 12%, compared to the 2020 target of 16%.  

Renewable energy is typically split into three modes: Electricity, Transport and Heat.  Figure 4.4 below shows renewable energy use in Ireland, broken down in different ways.

Renewable electricity accounted for two thirds (67%) of renewable energy used in 2019.  See Table 4.9 and Figure 4.4.

Show Table: 4.9 - SDG 7.2.1 Renewable Energy Share (RES) by Mode

RES-E (Normalised)RES-HRES-T

Renewable Energy in Electricity

Electricity generation has been the most successful of the three modes for the development of energy from renewable sources.  Renewable energy sources are now the second largest source of electricity after natural gas.  Ireland has no mandatory target for RES-E for 2020 but has set an ambitious national target of 40%.  RES-E forms the backbone of Ireland’s strategy to achieve the overall 16% renewable energy target for 2020.

The total contribution from renewable energy to gross electricity consumption in 2019 was 36.5% normalised (compared with 33.3% in 2018).  The share of electricity from renewable energy more than doubled between 2010 and 2019 – from 15.6% to 36.5% – an increase of 21 percentage points over nine years.  

Table 4.10 and Figure 4.5 show how electricity production from wind energy increased to the point where it accounted for 86% of the renewable electricity generated in 2019.  Electricity generated from biomass accounted for 7.2% of renewable electricity in 2019.  Biomass consists of contributions from solid biomass, landfill gas, the renewable portion of waste and other biogases.

Show Table: 4.10 - SDG 7.2.1 Renewable Energy Share of Electricity (RES-E) by Fuel

Wind (Normalised)Hydro (Normalised)BiomassOther

Renewable Energy in Heat

Although there is no mandatory target for RES-H set in the RED, Ireland has set a target of 12% RES-H to help deliver the overall mandatory target of 16% renewable energy by 2020.   Figure 4.4 shows the contribution from renewable energy to heat or thermal energy uses as a share of overall heat use.

RES-H grew from 4.3 % in 2010 to a peak of 6.7% in 2017.  In 2018 it fell to 6.4% and to 6.3% in 2019.  The absolute amount of renewable heat energy used fell by 3.5% in 2019.  Overall between 2010 and 2019, the amount of fossil fuels used for heat has reduced, which contributed positively towards the RES-H target, as the share of renewable heat is measured against a smaller total.

Renewable heat energy is dominated by solid biomass use (62%), in particular in industry.  The use of ambient energy (ground-source and air-source) has grown since 2010 and is now a significant source of renewable heat energy, accounting for approximately 17% of renewable heat energy in 2019.

See Table 4.11 and Figure 4.6.

Show Table: 4.11 - SDG 7.2.1 Renewable Energy Share of Heat (RES-H) by Fuel

BiomassBiogasSolar ThermalAmbient

Renewable energy in Transport

The RED established a mandatory minimum 10% target for the contribution of renewable energy in the final consumption of energy in transport by 2020.  According to the RED for this target, a weighting of 5 is applied to the electricity from renewable energy sources consumed by electric road vehicles and a weighting of 2.5 is applied to electricity from renewable energy sources consumed by rail transport, where the contribution is calculated as the share of electricity from renewable energy sources as measured two years before the year in question.  Also, supported through a weighting factor of 2, are second-generation biofuels, and biofuels from waste.  These weighting factors are used for the calculation of RES-T only and do not apply when calculating the transport contribution to the overall RES share.

Table 4.12 shows the progress for renewable transport energy, in terms of the RES-T target and also in terms of the contribution of transport to the overall RES target.  The figure for RES-T in 2019 was 8.9% when the weightings for biofuels and renewable electricity are applied in accordance with the RED, up from 7.2% in 2018.  

Table 4.12 also shows the share of renewable transport from the perspective of the overall RES target, which was just 3.9% in 2019.  Most of the difference between the two is due to the double weighting for advanced biofuels.  The significant gap between the RES-T share and the share of renewable transport energy from the perspective of the overall RES target has contributed to the poor progress towards the overall RES target.

Show Table: 4.12 - SDG 7.2.1 Renewable Energy Share in Transport (RES-T)

10% of energy consumed in road and rail transport must come from renewable sources. This is a mandatory target set by the Renewable Energy Directive, often referred to as RES-T.

Weighting factors
The Directive allows the following weighting factors when calculating the share of renewable transport energy for the specific RES-T target:

  • 2 for second generation biofuels and biofuels from waste
  • 5 for electricity from renewable energy sources consumed by electric road vehicles
  • 2.5 for electricity from renewable energy sources consumed by rail transport

These weightings make it easier to meet the RES-T target but do not count towards the overall RES target.

Ireland had the 12th largest share of RES-T out of the 28 EU member states in 2018.

Biodiesel and bioethanol
Renewable transport fuel use is almost entirely due to biodiesel and bioethanol.  These are blended in all regular petrol and diesel for sale in Ireland.

Without weighting factors, biodiesel made up 82% of renewable transport energy use in 2018.  Bioethanol accounted for 18%.  This is partly because of the higher use of diesel than petrol.  All biodiesel qualifies for the factor of 2 weighting but only about 10% of bioethanol qualified in 2018.

Including the weightings, biodiesel accounted for 88.7% of renewable transport energy in 2018.

Electricity in transport
Renewable electricity in road and rail transport also counts towards the RES-T target.  However with weightings it accounted for just 1.4% of renewable transport energy use in 2018.  Most of this was from the DART and Luas electric rail services, but electric vehicle numbers are growing strongly from a low base.

Renewable transport
• More than 98% of RES-T was from bioenergy, 88.7% was from biodiesel and almost 10% was from biogasoline.
• 1% of renewable transport energy is from electricity.  Most electricity used for transport is used by DART and Luas, but electricity for cars is growing rapidly as Ireland's fleet of electric vehicles grows quickly from a low base.
• Ireland was 13th out of the EU-28 for RES-T.  

See Table 4.13 and Figure 4.7.

Show Table: 4.13 - SDG 7.2.1 Renewable Energy Share of Transport (RES-T) by Fuel

BiodieselBiogasolinePure Plant OilRenewable Electricity
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SDG 7.3.1 Energy Intensity Measured in Terms of Primary Energy and GDP is reported by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) who publish data for energy intensity.

The SEAI published the most recent energy intensity data in their Energy in Ireland 2020 Report.  Section 5.3 of the Report is provided here.

Economic energy intensities 

Energy intensity is defined as the amount of energy required to produce a functional output.  In the case of the economy, the measure of output is generally taken to be the GDP.  GDP measured in constant prices is used to remove the influence of inflation.  The inverse of energy intensity represents the energy productivity of the economy.

Figure 4.8 shows the trend in both primary (primary energy divided by GDP) and final (final energy consumption divided by GDP) energy intensities of the economy (at constant 2018 prices).  The difference between these two trends reflects the amount of energy lost in the transformation of primary energy into final energy – mostly for electricity generation.  The electricity intensity of the economy (electricity generated divided by GDP) is also shown.

The primary and final energy intensity of the economy has been falling (reflecting improving energy productivity) since 2005, with the exception of 2008.  In 2005, it required 83 grammes of oil equivalent (goe) to produce 1 euro of GDP (in constant 2018 values), whereas in 2007 just 77 goe was required.  Between 2005 and 2019 primary energy intensity of the economy fell by 49% (4.7% per annum) to 42 goe/€2018.

Between 2010 and 2019, the primary and final intensity trends converged slightly, with primary energy intensity falling at a slightly faster rate, 44% (6.2% per annum), compared with a 41% (5.7% per annum) fall in final intensity.  This was due to increased efficiency in electricity generation.

The sharp fall in the energy intensity of the economy in 2015 of 16% must be viewed in the context of the 25% increase in GDP (the result of the transfer of assets into Ireland).  This should be viewed as an adjustment rather than a reduction in intensity, as the increase in GDP had little or no effect on energy consumption.  This is a good example of why energy intensity is not a good measure of energy efficiency progress.

See Table 4.14 and Figure 4.8.

Show Table: 4.14 - SDG 7.3.1 Energy Intensity Measured in Terms of Primary Energy and GDP

Primary IntensityFinal IntensityElectricity Intensity

The final electricity intensity of the economy has not been falling as fast as primary or final energy intensities. Over the period 2005-2019, electricity intensity fell by 35% (3.1% per annum).  This is attributed to the shift towards increased electricity consumption in energy end-use.  Final electricity intensity increased by 6.4% between 2007 and 2010, but fell by 37% between 2010 and 2019.

There are many factors that contribute to how trends in energy intensity of the economy evolve.  These factors include: technological efficiency and the fuel mix, particularly in relation to electricity generation; economies of scale in manufacturing; and, not least, the structure of the economy.  The structure of the economy, in Ireland, has changed considerably over the past 20 to 30 years.  It has shifted in the direction of the high value added sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, electronics and services.  Relative to traditional ‘heavier’ industries, such as car manufacturing and steel production, these growing sectors are not highly energy intensive.  Examples of changes to the structure of the industry sector include the cessation of steel production in 2001, of fertiliser production in late 2002, and of sugar production in 2007.

The energy intensity of the economy will continue to decrease if, as expected, the economy becomes increasingly dominated by high value added, low energy-consuming sectors.  This results in a more productive economy from an energy perspective but does not necessarily mean that the actual processes used are more energy efficient, or that less energy is being used overall in the economy.

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