The EPA acts as the Competent Authority in Ireland for the EU Emissions Trading System ("EU ETS"). In its analysis the EPA noted that emissions from Irish power generation and industrial companies fell by 6.4% in 2020. This reduction amounts to approximately 0.9 million tonnes of emissions. This is the lowest level of emissions recorded in Ireland since the introduction of the EU ETS in 2005.
However, whilst this is a positive story to some degree reflecting a move to renewable energy, it is disappointing to note that the decrease in Ireland is less than the European average of 11-12%.
In its preliminary analysis the EPA credited the decrease in emissions to the impact of lower production in some industrial sectors during the pandemic, combined with a significant drop in power generation emissions. Power generation emissions dropped by 8.4% due to the strong presence of renewable energy, primarily wind energy and less use of fossil fuels such as peat.
In contrast to the overall low figures of emissions throughout Ireland in 2020, emissions from the ESB coal plant at Moneypoint, Co Clare, increased by nearly 27% last year. This increase was mainly due to the increased demand for balance on the National Grid.
Aside from power generation, the overall decrease in industrial emissions collectively in Ireland last year was 3.5%. The cement industries recorded an overall decrease of 5.7%. The most significant increase in emissions can be seen in the dairy processing industry which showed an increase of 4% and the pharmachem industries which showed an increase of 10.9%.
The EPA analysis noted that aviation emissions from flights within the European Economic Area reported to Ireland decreased by 63% compared to 2019, to 4.74 million tonnes of CO2. This decrease is a clear indication of the effects of less people travelling by air due to the pandemic. The only airlines showing an increase in emissions specialised in air freight. Seven aviation operators are currently included in the system, including five large, Irish licensed commercial airlines.
Dr Maria Martin, Senior Manager in the EPA welcomed the overall decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from large industries, but noted that underlying this decrease are some contrasting trends. She outlined that an increase in the use of renewables in the power generation sector, coupled with the impact of Covid-19, led to less emissions. Dr Martin pointed out that although there was a decrease overall in emissions in 2020, there are still many companies in the industrial sectors, such as dairy processing and pharmachem, where emissions are increasing year on year.
Rise in Price of Carbon
The EPA analysis revealed that a positive development is the price of carbon in the EU ETS has continued to rise from just under €31 per tonne at the end of 2020 to €43 per tonne currently. Dr Martin stated that "it is not yet clear if this will be sufficient and stable enough to drive emissions reductions".
This year in Ireland, 105 major industrial and institutional sites were required to report their emissions for 2020 under the EU ETS. These sites included areas such as power generation, cement, lime and oil refining sectors, as well as large companies in the food and drink sector, pharmaceuticals and semi-conductors. The verified emissions for individual companies for 2020 can be found here.
All emissions for 2020 reported by Ireland under the EU ETS added up to a total of 13.28m tonnes.
The EPA's analysis on Ireland's power generation and industrial emissions can be found here, a breakdown of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions by sector can be found here.
Written by JP McDowell, Jonathan Moore and Ella Whyte.
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