Ireland (2013)

Degree of reliance on imported energy: 

Ireland imports nearly all of its energy needs, as indigenous energy production only amounts to 2 Mtoe, covering 14% of TPES.  In 2011 Ireland imported 88% of its energy needs, down from a peak of 90% in 2006. Oil is by far the dominant energy source but natural gas use has also been increasing.

Irish gas imports (exclusively coming from the UK) amounted to 5.1 bcm in 2010, accounting for 93% of national consumption. Most of this is used to generate electricity. Indigenous production accounts for around 7% of electricity generation, while the rest is imported from the UK through two interconnectors. As a result, wholesale prices are closely linked to the United Kingdom’s NBP hub.

Main sources of Energy: 

Total primary energy supply (TPES) in Ireland was 14.4 Mtoe in 2010, 5% lower than in 2007 as a result of the financial crisis. Over a longer time-frame, however, the average annual growth of TPES since 2000 stands at around 0.5%, while the economy has grown on average by 2.4% per year over the same period.

In terms of fuels, oil is the largest energy source in TPES, representing almost half of TPES. Ireland has the third-highest share of oil in the energy mix among lEA member countries, with only Luxembourg and Greece having an even higher share in their fuel mix. Natural gas is the second-largest energy source. Gas supply increased rapidly -by 3% per year over the last decade- and amounted to 4.7 Mtoe or 33% of TPES in 2010. Coal is the third-largest energy source in Ireland, accounting for 9% of TPES in 2010, and peat the fourth-largest with around 6%. Therefore, the total share of fossil fuels sums up to 95% in TPES in 2010, which is the second-highest share among all IEA member countries. Renewable energy sources represent 4.6% of TPES, constituted mainly of wind with biofuels and waste.

Ireland has set the ambitious target of producing 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, one of the most demanding in the world. Ireland's location at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean ensures one of the best wind and ocean resources in Europe, and the government is encouraging the development of electricity generated from renewable sources by means of a renewable energy feed-in tariff (REFIT) programme. Feed-in tariffs have until now tended to favour the development of technologically mature wind power. There has also been a growing interest in biomass, notably for co-firing with, and ultimately replacing, Ireland's indigenous peat. The European Commission's approval in 2012 of the expansion of Ireland's REFIT programme into other renewable sectors, including biomass technologies, should favour this development.



Extent of the network: 

The East-West Interconnector between Ireland and the UK was inaugurated on 20 September 2012 and doubles the interconnection capacity between the two systems. The project for establishing a second high-capacity connection between Northern Ireland and Ireland is at an advanced planning stage. Alongside these projects, work on the transmission grid in Ireland aims to improve the grid configuration in order to integrate generation from renewable sources; particularly wind parks. All of this greatly helps to improve the security of supply to Ireland, while making the grid flexible and reliable.

Capacity concerns: 

Capacity has remained largely unchanged in the last 20 years, a period that has seen a growth of 150% in the electricity demand being carried by the system. EirGrid calculates that to facilitate the necessary increase in renewable generation and to adequately meet the demands of the electricity customer, the capacity of the bulk transmission system will need to be doubled by 2025.

Potential for Renewable Energy: 


Research carried out by Met Éireann indicates that Ireland normally receives between 1400 and 1700 sunshine hours per year. This research states that, due to its geographical position off the north-west of Europe and close to the Atlantic low-pressure system, tending to keep Ireland in humid cloudy conditions, Irish skies are clouded over more than 50% of the time.

Wind Energy

Compared to other lEA countries, wind plays an important role in Ireland's energy mix. Ireland has the fourth-highest share of wind in TPES and in electricity generation, after Denmark, Spain and Portugal. Wind represents 16% of indigenous energy production, the highest share among all lEA member countries.


Most of the solid biomass used in Ireland is for thermal energy purposes only. In electricity generation biomass is used in co-firing with fossil fuels in existing power plants. Only a small amount of biomass is currently used in the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants (1.1% in 2011). In the Government’s 2007 Energy White Paper there is a target to have 30% biomass co-firing with peat in the three stated-owned peat-generation stations by 2015.


Biogas is produced from the anaerobic digestion of animal slurries, wastes in abattoirs, breweries and other agrifood industries. Anaerobic digestion is a cost effective method of producing heat/electricity and reducing harmful wastes. Biogas is used in CHP plants to generate electricity either for own use or for exporting to the grid. There is currently 0.9 MW installed capacity connected to the electricity distribution network with a further 21.5 MW contracted or in the queue for connection. In 2011 approximately 3.3 GWh was generated from biogas or 0.07% of total electricity generated in 2011.


There are 14 large hydroelectric generators connected to the transmission system (maximum export capacity {MEC} of > 4 MW). The total hydro connected to the transmission system is 212 MW. This is 2.8% of the total connected generation capacity. There are a further 58 micro (< 1 MW) hydroelectric generators connected to the distribution system with an installed capacity of 25.5 MW. Further growth in large scale hydro projects is not currently planned. However there are 4 micro generation projects of 1 MW capacity contracted for distribution system connections.


It is estimated that an accessible wave energy resource of 21 TWh per annum exists within the total limit of Irish waters. This equates to just over three quarters (75%) of the total electricity demand in 2011. The Government has a target of 500 MW of installed wave energy capacity by 2020 and an ambition for Ireland to be a world leader in the development of wave energy.

Potential for Energy Efficiency: 

As of 2011, the transport sector contributed most to Irish final energy consumption, with 3,608 ktoe, or 35.6%. The residential sector was also a significant contributor, with 26.1%. The Irish public sector in particular has been identified as a potential source of energy savings, with a target of 3,240 GWh of equivalent energy savings by 2020 for the sector. The current Irish National Energy Efficiency Action Plan targets five key areas for improving energy efficiency in the country:

  1. Establishing obligations on public-sector bodies to address consumption, procurement and reporting of energy use,
  2. Establishing a national Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) process for the commercial and public sectors, to assist with retrofitting and financing,
  3. Introducing appropriate Pay-As-You-Save models for domestic and non-domestic energy efficiency upgrades,
  4. Introducing energy-saving targets for energy suppliers, and
  5. Establishing a cross-departmental implementation group for the delivery of the NEEAP.


Ireland has successfully implemented the all-island Single Electricity Market (SEM) with Northern Ireland, which has made a positive impact on market entry and alongside changes to the manner in which the retail markets are regulated, has allowed genuine competition between suppliers to emerge. Nevertheless, the electricity incumbent, state-owned Electricity Supply Board (ESB), continues to maintain almost half of total dispatchable generating capacity and most of the price-setting generation assets in the SEM, obliging the regulatory authority to implement specific bidding rules and a market monitor to regulate market behaviour.

Structure / extent of competition: 


The wholesale electricity market for Ireland is the SEM. It is jointly regulated by the CER and its counterpart in Belfast, the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation (NIAUR). The major supplier in the Irish market is the ESB. It owns roughly 41% of dispatchable capacity on the island. Endesa is the second largest supplier (15.5%).

There are eight suppliers in the retail electricity market. The state-owned ESB (Electric Ireland as of 2012) supplies most domestic customers. By the end of 2011, it accounted for 57% of domestic electricity consumption, BGE for 23% and Airtricity for 20%. In 2010, the annual switching rate in the whole retail market was very high. At over 28%, it was one of the highest switching rates ever seen in Europe, with 40% of domestic customers having switched between 2009 and April 2011. The annual switching rate was 15% in 2011. End user prices are not regulated. Power prices for industrial customers were more volatile than household prices. The industrial price decreased after 2008. This appears to be linked to the economic slowdown.

The Irish electricity sector is dominated by ESB and its 75 subsidiaries which comprise a vertically integrated electricity business. ESB is active at all levels of the electricity sector in the State, namely: power generation, electricity transmission and distribution and the wholesale and retail supply of electricity. ESB is also active in the provision of engineering consultancy services; for the most part it provides these services to businesses engaged in the construction and refurbishment of thermal power plants and wind farm developments both in the State and internationally. ESB is the licensed owner of the electricity transmission and distribution systems in the country.


BGE dominates the Irish wholesale market. The CER traditionally regulated BGE’s tariffs, but this changed in October 2010 for large customers, who now have access to an unregulated tariff. There are some new entrants in the different segments of the wholesale market focusing on large customers. They tend to use BGE’s regulated tariff as a benchmark.

Historically, BGE has dominated the Irish retail market. Traditionally, it supplied energy to 97% of residential customers. However, in May 2010 a new supplier, Airtricity, entered the market. There was a large increase in the number of customers who switched supplier as a result. In April 2011, Electric Ireland also entered the gas market. By the end of 2011, BGE had 73% (~78% GWhs) of gas domestic customers, Airtricity had 19% (17.4% GWhs), Flogas had 4% and Electric Ireland had 4%. Tariffs for BGE customers are still regulated. End user prices are not regulated for those who consume between 5.5 GWh and 264 GWh.

Existence of an energy framework and programmes to promote sustainable energy: 

The Republic of Ireland has three energy goals; energy security, cost competitiveness and environmental sustainability. Renewables make only a very small percentage of actual energy consumption compared to other Europe. The main sources of renewable energy are wind, biomass, hydro and liquid biofuels.

White Paper

The White Paper Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland (2007) sets out a roadmap that will steer Ireland to a new and sustainable energy future. The White Paper includes ambitious and challenging bioenergy targets to 2020, setting a clear path for meeting the Government's goals of ensuring safe and secure, affordable energy. The 2020 targets include: 33% electricity consumption from Renewables (since revised to 40%), 12% renewable heat including 10% from bioenergy, 10% biofuels penetration in transport, 800 MW from Combined Heat and Power (CHP) with an emphasis on Biomass-CHP, and 30% co-firing with biomass at the three State owned peat power generation stations to be achieved progressively by 2015 beginning with immediate development by Bord na Móna of its pilot project at Edenderry Power Station.

National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) and National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP)

The National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) was submitted to the EU Commission in July 2010, and the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP), first published in May 2009.  The NREAP details a pathway for Ireland to meet the binding commitments of 16% Renewable Energy Share (RES) of national energy consumption and a 10% RES of road and rail transport consumption (RES-T) by 2020. The NEEAP outlines how Ireland will achieve 20% energy efficiency savings, calculated on the basis of the average energy demand from 2001 to 2005.

Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012-2020

The strategy sets out five strategic goals: increasing on and offshore wind, building a sustainable bioenergy sector, fostering R&D in renewables such as wave & tidal, growing sustainable transport and building out robust and efficient networks. 

Underpinning the Government’s energy and economic policy objectives are the following five Strategic Goals reflecting the key dimensions of the renewable energy challenge to 2020.

  1. Progressively more renewable electricity from onshore and offshore wind power for the domestic and export markets.
  2. A sustainable bioenergy sector supporting renewable heat, transport and power generation.
  3. Green growth through research and development of renewable technologies including the preparation for market of ocean technologies.
  4. Increase sustainable energy use in the transport sector through biofuels and electrification.
  5. An intelligent, robust and cost efficient energy networks system.

Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT)

In May 2010, the Government announced new support price structure for bioenergy i.e. use of natural materials for the production of electricity. The guaranteed support price under the government’s Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) ranges from 15 cent per kilowatt hour to 8.5 cent per kilowatt hour depending on the technology deployed. The technologies supported include Anaerobic Digestion Combined Heat and Power, Biomass Combined Heat and Power and Biomass Combustion, including provision for 30% co-firing of biomass in the three peat powered stations. REFIT is designed to provide price certainty to renewable electricity generators. It has been in operation for wind and hydro power since 2006. It operates on a sliding scale, acting to ensure a guaranteed price for each unit of electricity exported to the grid by paying the difference between the wholesale price for electricity and the REFIT price. In effect, this means that as electricity prices increase, the amount paid under REFIT falls, mitigating the effect on the consumer.

Tax regulation mechanisms (Taxes Consolidation Act 1997)

Section 62 of Finance Act 1998 introduced section 486B at the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and provided for a scheme of tax relief for corporate investments in certain renewable energy projects (solar, wind, biomass, and hydro, including ocean, wave or tidal energy). The scheme aims to facilitate the growth of electricity generation capacity using RES. The scheme has been periodically extended and was recently extended until 31 December 2014 (section 486B TCA 1997 amended by section 25 Finance Act 2012). The scheme is open for applications on a continual basis.

Training Programmes for Installers

An installer must complete a training course and obtain the appropriate qualification in order to be registered as an installer of renewable energy plants.

Certification Programmes

Public bodies can only procure equipment’s and vehicles that satisfy certain energy efficiency criteria or are listed on the Triple E Products Register (Register) maintained by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Exemplary role of Public Authorities

Public bodies are required to achieve energy savings and purchase efficient products and vehicles.

RES-H Building

New buildings are required to comply with renewable energy requirements of Part L of the Building Regulations, increasing the use of installations for sanitary hot water.

Current energy debates or legislation: 

Ireland and the UK signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which could formalize the export of energy from Ireland’s renewables sector — and wind projects in particular — to help boost the UK’s energy supply and ability to meet its 2020 targets. The pact, signed in late January, saw the two countries agree to investigate ways to achieve cost-efficient use of resources and it is anticipated that an intergovernmental agreement covering energy export arrangements could be on the cards for 2014.   This potential agreement has met with mixed reactions, with its advocates excited about the prospect of launching a new export market in Ireland with the potential to bring much needed jobs to rural areas. On the other hand criticisms have focused on negative effects of the construction needed to build the wind farms, and its potential impact on the Irish landscape.

Major energy studies: 

The North Seas Offshore Grid Initiative is an agreement entered into by Ireland and 9 other States, the EU Commission, ACER (the EU regulators representative association) and ENTSO-E (the Transmission System Operators EU representative association) to maximize the potential of the renewable energy resources of the Northern Seas (North Sea, English Channel, Irish Sea and Atlantic area). The region covers 55% of total EU electricity demand and in time, provides an enormous market potential for renewable generators providing the appropriate market, regulatory and infrastructure aspects can be developed.

Role of government: 

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR)

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) is the lead government department with responsibility for setting overall energy policy. The department determines overall policy to safeguard security of energy supply, develop a sustainable energy future and competitive, efficient and properly regulated energy markets. The Energy Policy section ofthe department is divided into six divisions:

  • Energy Planning and Electricity Corporate Division;
  • Electricity and Gas Regulation Division;
  • Oil Security and Energy Corporate Governance Division;
  • Renewable and Sustainable Energy Division;
  • Energy Efficiency and Affordability Division; and
  • Office of Chief Technical Advisor.

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI)

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) was established under the 2002 Sustainable Energy Act in 2002, and is responsible for advising government on policies and measures on sustainable and renewable energy (including energy efficiency), implementing programmes agreed by government and stimulating sustainable energy policies and actions by public bodies, the business sector, local communities and individual consumers. Its stated principal functions are:

  • supporting government decision making through advocacy, analysis and evidence;
  • driving demand reduction and providing advice to all users of energy;
  • driving the decarbonisation of energy supply;
  • raising standards in sustainable energy products and services;
  • building markets based on quality, confidence and proven performance;
  • fostering innovation and entrepreneurship; and
  • improving the coherence of Irish energy research and development.

Government agencies in sustainable energy: 

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for licensing all activities with a significant pollution potential, through the Integrated Pollution Control licensing system. The Agency is also responsible for implementing the Emissions Trading Directive in Ireland. It is overseen by the Department of the Environment.

Energy planning procedures: 

An Bord Pleanála (ABP) was established in 1977 under the Local Government (Planningand Development) Act 1976 and is responsible for the determination of appeals and certain other matters under the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2010, and the determination of applications for strategic infrastructure development. Strategic infrastructure development can be described as development which is of strategic economic or social importance to the state or a region, and includes projects, which would have a notable effect on the area of more than one planning authority. There is a list of the different types of infrastructure developments (including environmental, transport and energy infrastructure projects) that may apply to the Strategic Infrastructure Board. However, in principle it is for the Board to determine whether the projects are “strategic” and whether the projects will be considered under this section of the Planning Acts or whether they should go through the normal planning process. In the case of Energy Infrastructure (i.e. not electricity transmission lines or strategic gas developments), a list of projects which can apply for consideration under this section are set out. In assessing consequences to sustainable development and the effects on the environment, views from local authorities and other involved stakeholders are taken into account.

EirGrid (the TSO) is responsible for the development of the transmission network and generally all of its projects fall under the 2006 Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act. The transmission network comprises 110/220/400kV lines, substations and cables. ESB Networks (the DSO) develop the distribution network which comprises distribution 110kV lines (tail lines not part of the meshed grid transmission grid), and lower voltage lines. Planning permission is required for electricity transmission lines of 110kV and above under section 182A of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Overhead lines at 38kV require planning permission, whilst those of 20kV and below do not, provided they are constructed for the purposes of an “electricity undertaking”. Final granting of licenses and authorisation for the construction of new generating infrastructure rests with the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), the national regulator. A person who wishes to construct a generating station or to generate electricity must obtain an authorisation or licence from the CER.

Energy regulator Date of creation: 

Commission for Energy Regulation (CER)

The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) was established under the Electricity Regulation Act in 1999 to oversee an open, transparent and accountable regulatory process for Ireland's electricity industry. The 2002 Gas (Interim) Regulation Act expanded the CER's jurisdiction to include both gas and electricity.

Degree of independence: 

The CER is legally independent in the performance of its functions. It is funded by means of a levy on energy undertakings and income from licensing fees.

Regulatory framework for sustainable energy: 

The support scheme in Ireland is based on a Renewable Feed in Tariff (REFIT) programme which was launched in 2006. Almost every Renewable Energy Source is eligible to receive the feed- in tariff for the duration of 15 years. The level of the tariff depends on the technology. In order to receive the tariff, the RES-E producer enters into a power purchase contract with a supplier. There is no cap on the volume of electricity produced per year or on the installed capacity. RES-E producers have the option to join the SEM and enjoy separate treatment if their production is variable. If they sell electricity in the SEM they have a balancing responsibility, except of autonomous producers which cannot control their output.

Regulatory roles: 

The CER facilitates competition in the energy sector by authorising the construction of certain energy infrastructure and licensing energy undertakings. The CER has a regulatory role in relation to the operation, maintenance and licensing of the transmission and distribution networks. It approves terms and conditions (including tariffs) for third-party access to electricity and gas networks and facilities.

Role of government department in energy regulation: 

The Competition Authority is responsible for the regulation of competitive practices in the Irish economy, and its remit covers the energy sector.

Regulatory barriers: 

Policy should remove (unnecessary) regulatory barriers to the provision of flexibility services, such as non-electrical constraints on the use of hydro plants for balancing.


DCENR (2012): Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012-2020. Available at: [Accessed 15th December]

EIRGRID (2011): Grid 25: A Strategy for the Development of Ireland’s Electricity Grid for a Sustainable and Competitive Future.  Available at: [Accessed 7th November]

Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Ireland 2012 Review. Available at: [Accessed 12th November]

Flood, E.; McDonell. K. et al. (2013): A Feasibility Analysis of Photovoltaic Solar Power for Small Communities in Ireland. Available at: [Accessed 2nd November]

EPA (2011): Ireland’s Environment Sustainable Energy. Available at: [Accessed 2nd November]

Ernest & Young (2013): Renewable energy country attractiveness indices. Available at:$FILE/Renewable_energy_country_attractiveness_indices.pdf [Accessed 27th December]

IEA (2012): Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Ireland 2012. Available at: [Accessed 12th November]

IEA (2012): Executive Summary and Key Recommendations. Available at: [Accessed 12th December]

RES LEGAL (2013): Tax regulation mechanism (Taxes Consolidation Act 1997).  Available at: [Accessed 12th November]

SEAI website: Irish Bioenergy Policy.  Available at:  [Accessed 12th November]

SEAI (2011): Energy Forecasts for Ireland to 2020. Available at: [Accessed 12th November]

SEAI (2012): Renewable Energy in Ireland 2011.  Available at: [Accessed 7th December]

Tarvainen-Puhakka, Helena & Renvall, Jarmo (eds.) (2012): Community Renewable Energy in the Northern Periphery – An Argument for Policy Change. Available at: [Accessed 7th December]

The Competition Authority (2010): Competition in the Electricity Sector.  Available at: [Accessed 7th December]

The Institute of International and European Affairs website: Ireland’s Second Wind? – The Green Energy Memorandum of Understanding.  Available at: [Accessed 25th December] Ireland.  Available at: [Accessed 25th December]

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (2012): Ireland's Second National Energy Efficiency Action Plan to 2020. Available at: [Accessed 29th January]

IEA (2011): Country Energy Statistics - Ireland. Available at: [Accessed 29th January]

Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources website: Ireland's National Renewable Energy Action Plan. Available at: [Accessed 29th January]

Irish Competition Authority website: About Us. Available at: [Accessed 29th January]