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Renewable energy increases 21% in Ireland

The use of renewable energy in Ireland expanded by 21% in 2008, according to the analytic report, ‘Energy in Ireland 1990-2008.’

During the period 2005 to 2008, renewable energy use grew by an annual average of 16%, explains the report from Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI). Since 1990, renewable energy has grown by 247% (average of 7.1% per annum) in absolute terms.

Last year, Ireland experienced a 23% increase in wind generation and a 45% increase in the contribution from hydro. The installed capacity of wind generation reached 1,161 MW (246 MW more than September 2008), with another 434 MW of wind ready to come online before the end of 2009 and a further 469 MW by the end of 2010.

“Having exceeded 12% electricity from renewable sources, we are well on our way to reaching our interim targets next year,” says energy minister Eamon Ryan. “With this level of progress, I am confident that our target of 40% electricity from renewable in the next decade will be met.”

The share of renewables to gross electricity consumption was 12% in 2008 compared with 9.4% in 2007 and, overall, renewables represented 4.5% of gross final energy use.  The estimated CO2 avoided through the use of renewable energy increased by 197% (6.2% per annum on average) over the period 1990 to 2008, reaching 2.2 Mt in 2008, which is 1.5 time the emissions from coal burned in Ireland.

In terms of primary energy production, renewables have increase from 168 kilotonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe) in 1990 to 538 ktoe in 2008, with hydro increasing from 60 to 83 and biomass from 105 to 165, while wind has grown from nothing to 207, solar from 0 to 3 and geothermal from 0 to 20 ktoe.

The rising energy use in Irish buildings contributed to an increase of 1.5% in overall energy demand last year, despite the economic contraction, the report explains. Increased heating resulted in a 8.8% increase in energy use by homes and a 7% increase in commercial and public buildings, “highlighting that the energy efficiency of domestic, commercial and public buildings needs to remain a priority.”

“Energy in Ireland 1990-2008 is a significant report revealing new insights on what drives Ireland’s energy demand and clearly showing where we need to concentrate our efforts,” says Owen Lewis of SEI. “Improving the energy performance of our buildings remains a key priority and the government’s recent budget support for energy retrofits and upgrades will greatly aid this in 2010 and beyond.”

“It is critical that the return to economic growth is not matched by a corresponding growth in energy demand,” he adds. “The two must be fundamentally decoupled so that Ireland’s future economic successes are not undermined by unsustainable energy use. As a nation, as individual businesses and as householders, we must continue to make  sustainable energy a normal way of life and to aggressively pursue technologies and practices that thrust Ireland into the forefront of the clean, green revolution.”

Imported oil and natural gas account for 81% of energy supply in Ireland, and the country’s overall import dependency was 89% in 2008. Natural gas remains the dominant fuel in electricity generation, with its share increasing to 55%.

Sustainable Energy Ireland is the statutory authority charged with promoting and assisting the development of sustainable energy. It is funded by the Irish government under the National Development Plan, with programmes part-financed by the European Union.

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