Households and businesses face higher energy bills due to the State’s reliance on imported fossil fuels.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) says Ireland faces a challenge in reducing reliance on oil, gas, coal and peat for transport, heating and energy production, noting the price of a barrel of oil has increased from $44 in 2016 to $82 last October, while gas increased 23pc between 2016 and 2017. Energy prices in Ireland rose by 3.2pc last year compared with 2016, well in excess of hikes across European OECD countries and the US, the ‘Energy in Ireland’ report notes.
It also highlights that demand for energy continues to increase, up 0.5pc in 2017 as the economy grew by 3pc last year.
However, increased use of renewable energy means emissions are falling from electricity production.
Overall, fossil fuels account for 90pc of all energy used in Ireland last year. Coal use fell by 20pc, peat dropped by 5.3pc but use of oil rose by 0.5pc and natural gas by 1.5pc.
But the big winner was use of renewables, which increased by 19pc. Almost 25pc of power was generated by renewables, the biggest contributors after gas.
However, we are not on track to meet 2020 renewable targets across the heat, electricity and transport sectors.
“Despite some areas of good performance in 2017, the bottom line is that we need to accelerate the pace of change,” said SEAI chief executive Jim Gannon.
“Collectively and individually, we need to use less as we take greater advantage of the renewable energy available to us here in Ireland.”
The report shows that transport continues to dominate as the largest energy-consuming sector at 43pc, with use rising 2pc last year. Half of this is accounted for by private cars.
While the share of renewables is rising, some 70pc of our power is generated using fossil fuels.
Last year, some 66pc of fuel sources were imported. This fell from 88pc in 2015, largely due to gas from the Corrib field but also to increased renewables.
The benefits of switching to low-carbon energy are highlighted, both in terms of emissions reductions but also due to less spending on imports. The report says utilising renewables avoided 4.1 million tonnes of carbon and a spend of €439m.
Less use of coal and peat also meant the power generated is cleaner, while the average household emitted 5.1 tonnes of carbon last year, down from 8.4 tonnes in 2005.
Meanwhile, Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton has told the UN climate talks in Poland that Ireland “needs to step up” its efforts to tackle global warming.
“The window is very fast closing in which we can, as a community of nations, respond to this challenge. Our failure to respond will be catastrophic,” he said.
“The technology we need is largely available. This isn’t about asking us to do things never dreamed of. We will carry our responsibility.”