A reliable supply of affordable energy to heat our homes and power our industries is something Irish people have taken for granted for as long as most of us remember.
However, climate change and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have shown how vulnerable Europe’s energy supplies actually are.
Russian fossil fuels are being used as an economic and political weapon, resulting in volatile energy prices and unreliable supply lines throughout Europe.
Meanwhile, the effects of climate change are already being felt across the world and delivering secure, sustainable and affordable energy for citizens and businesses has become a matter of urgency.
The European Commission is taking action to mitigate Europe’s energy vulnerabilities for the coming winters and proposing measures to ensure reliable energy supplies for future generations.
The Green Deal is Europe’s ambitious plan to transform Europe into the first climate-neutral continent, and it paves the way towards more affordable, secure and sustainable energy.
Russia’s military attack on Ukraine has caused problems with energy supplies and costs that highlight Europe’s need to rapidly transition to clean energy sources.
The greatest potential for energy in the European Union is in our own hands. We must scale up and accelerate the deployment of renewables. We must go big and we must be fast.
Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President
The Green Deal focuses on three key principles for this clean energy transition.
- Ensuring a secure and affordable EU energy supply.
- Developing a fully integrated, interconnected and digitalised EU energy market.
- Prioritising energy efficiency, improving the energy performance of our buildings and developing a power sector based largely on renewable sources.
Progress is being made, with Eurostat statistics showing the overall share of energy consumption from renewable energy sources across the EU more than doubling to almost 22% between 2004 and 2021, although more than half of EU Member states are still below the EU average.
Ireland is amongst the countries with the lowest proportions of renewables with just 12.5% recorded in 2021 while Sweden had the highest share with 62.6% of its energy coming from a mix of biomass, hydro, wind, heat pumps and liquid biofuels.
To meet the EU’s energy and climate targets for 2030, EU countries have published national energy and climate plans (NECP) for the period from 2021 to 2030 showing how they intend to improve energy efficiency, increase the use of renewables and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Member States will update their NECPs during 2023 to reflect increased ambitions of the European Green Deal and the REPowerEU plan.
European Commission Energy Strategy
Work on reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels began long before the invasion of Ukraine, but the European Commission’s REPowerEU Plan is rapidly accelerating the process.
REPowerEU includes measures to save energy, diversify energy supplies, and accelerate the roll-out of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels in homes, industry and power generation.
Member States are being supported with their strategies to phase out dependence on Russian fossil fuels and increase renewable energy sources through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the main pillar of the EU’s post-Covid recovery plan. Overall, close to €270 billion is available in the form of grants and loans.
Energy will be saved by actions such as a European Green Deal Binding Energy Efficiency Target of 11.7% for 2030 while Member States are being encouraged to introduce measures such as reduced VAT rates on energy efficient heating systems, building insulation, and appliances and products.
Road transport is responsible for one third of all final energy consumed in the EU and the Commission has also proposed an ambitious new target of zero-emissions for new city buses by 2030 and 90% emissions reductions on new trucks by 2040.
In April 2022, the EU Energy Platform was established to help secure energy supplies. A mechanism called AggregateEU is a central component of the Energy Platform. It allows European companies to use their collective market power to negotiate better prices with international suppliers, which will help refill EU gas storage facilities in a coordinated and efficient manner.
The European Commission has also proposed to reform the EU's electricity market to accelerate the use of renewables and phase-out dependency on gas.
The reforms, which include the right to fixed-price contracts for citizens, are designed to protect consumers from price spikes and potential market manipulation, and make the EU's industry cleaner and more competitive.
Questions and Answers on REPowerEU
Q&A: Revision of CO2 emission standards for transport sector
The European Commission has responded to volatility on European gas markets with a number of actions and measures designed to secure consistent energy supplies at affordable prices.
These include a Market Correction Mechanism to protect EU businesses and households from episodes of excessively high gas market prices, and a temporary emergency regulation to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy sources.
Member States are also being granted exemptions from EU State Aid rules for actions that speed up the transition towards a net-zero economy.
Plans for reducing gas consumption and demand for electricity have also been adopted as well as new rules requiring underground gas storage to be filled to near capacity introduced.
These measures have helped reduce EU gas consumption by around 15% and lower Russian gas pipeline supplies from 40% to 9% while gas storage in the EU is now at more than 90%.
Questions and Answers on emergency intervention
Ireland and Energy
Ireland relies on gas and oil imports to meet its energy needs. Almost one third of Irish energy, and over half of the country’s electricity, comes from natural gas.
Being an island nation adversely impacts Ireland’s ability to fully integrate into the EU’s internal energy market but developing intra-EU cross border interconnection capacity is of strategic importance, and is highlighted in the REPowerEU Plan.
Ireland’s gas supplies are currently less vulnerable than those of other Member States as 75% of the country’s gas comes from the UK, but the country is still impacted by gas price instability and has its own challenges when it comes to security of electricity supplies.
Following Brexit, the 2020 EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) established an EU-UK Specialised Committee on Energy to develop and govern energy relations between the EU and UK.
Ireland benefits from a number of EU funded projects that improve energy connectivity. These Projects of Common Interest (PCIs) are key infrastructure developments that link EU energy systems together.
They include a 575km Celtic Interconnector between France (La Martyre) and Ireland (Knockraha, Co Cork) that’s due to be completed in 2026 and which will deliver greater energy security and lower energy prices.
The Celtic Interconnector is of paramount importance as it will end Ireland’s isolation from the Union’s power system and ensure a reliable high-capacity link improving the security of electricity supply and supporting the development of renewables in both Ireland and France.
Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson
There’s also a proposed 360MW hydroelectric power station in Silvermines, Co Tipperary, that will transform a disused mining site into one of Ireland’s leading green energy facilities, and a 190km underground electricity interconnector between the Great Island substation in Wexford and Pembroke substation in Wales.
Ireland has State Aid approval from the European Union to operate a Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) out to 2025. This allowed Ireland to hold its first auction for offshore wind contracts, which in May 2023 were awarded to four offshore wind projects that are expected to generate enough clean energy at fixed prices to power over 2.5 million Irish homes.
European Investment Bank (EIB) funding is also helping Ireland source renewable energy. The EIB and Bank of Ireland are financing a €100 million Bord na Móna wind farm project at Cloncreen, Co Offaly, that will be able to supply up to 55,000 homes with renewable energy.
EIB finance of €65 million has also been provided to help finance an onshore wind farm in Co Mayo while a €1.5 million EIB energy grant helped renovate Tipperary homes with renewable energy systems.
Ireland is one of nine EU members of the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) – a European Commission supported framework aimed at advancing development of offshore renewable energy in the North Seas, including the Irish and Celtic Seas.
Under the Irish Co-Presidency of NSEC in September 2022, NSEC Energy Ministers and the European Commission agreed significant offshore wind energy targets that will represent more than 85% of EU-wide ambitions of reaching 300GW by 2050.
Ireland still has work to do to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. According to Eurostat, emissions in the fourth quarter of 2022 decreased in almost all EU countries when compared with the same quarter of 2021, but Ireland’s increased by 12.3%.
Ireland’s Climate Action Plan sets out a roadmap on how the country will meet agreed EU emissions targets by 2030 and reach net zero no later than 2050.
The North Seas Energy Cooperation
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EU Cohesion Policy: €169 million for a just climate transition in Ireland
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