Ireland is a country on the periphery of Europe with a great dependency on imported fossil fuels; we import almost 90% of our power, with an approximate cost of over €6.5bn! The EU average for imported energy is 40%.....This high dependency on imported fossil fuels results in high energy prices, which are especially felt in Irish households (OECD, 2014; SEAI 2014).
Ireland is in a vulnerable position - we are at the mercy of price variations and also at the end of the distribution line should an oil shortage occur. In addition to the challenges presented by oil shortages, burning fossil fuels to create energy also creates its own challenges. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide (CO2, a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere which ultimately contributes to global warming, the effects of which we are witnessing in recent years, in particular with regards to flooding events.
In very recent years though there have been positive developments with regards to renewable energy (SEAI, 2014). Over 20% of Ireland’s electricity supply was met by renewable energy sources in 2013; this was increase of 6% on 2012 and accounted for the second largest electricity source after natural gas. The resulting financial saving to the State was found to be in excess of €250,000,000. As a consequence, there was a 3.8% decrease in national CO2 emissions. In fact CO2 emissions related to electricity were the lowest recorded and this was without a decrease in electricity usage (SEAI, 2014).
However, while Ireland’s final energy consumption decreased during the country’s economic recession, from 2009 – 2011 in particular, the demand for energy in all sectors began to increase again as the economy strengthened, mostly notably in 2013 (SEAI, 2014),. It is important to note that such trends are also being reported in the media, which is informing the wider public (Irish Times, 24/02/2015).
Irish householders have also been faced with the increasing cost of fuels such as oil, gas and electricity; SVP estimates the cost of household energy bills has increased by €500 over the past three years, and it is estimated that 20% of Irish householders are experiencing financial difficulty meeting annual average bills of €2,000.