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Ireland, like many other countries, is grappling with the issue of how to meet the ever increasing energy demands of its people, while reducing the environmental impact of this consumption and at the same time maintaining a secure affordable energy supply.
As is often the case, the solution will require many elements, however it is clear that natural gas and renewable gas will be a key element in meeting this challenge. In addition to this, Ireland is under pressure to meet EU targets for renewable energy. Failure to do so, will lead to significant fines, which at current calculations could reach hundreds of millions per annum1.
Ireland’s energy mix is principally split between energy for power generation, energy for transport and thermal energy. Of these, thermal energy accounts for approximately 39 per cent of the total primary energy demand.
Natural gas is used in electricity generation, in thermal energy for heating and cooking and will soon be an important part of our transport energy mix. Natural gas, in addition to being the cleanest of fossil fuels, is affordable and provides a secure and predictable supply of energy. As the majority of our natural gas is currently sourced from the Corrib field, it is also an indigenous fuel, providing enhanced security of supply.
Natural gas has been part of Ireland’s energy mix for 45 years. As the drive to a low carbon society gathers pace, Gas Networks Ireland is rolling out a number of new initiatives which will help Ireland achieve its environmental and economic goals.
While gas is relatively low in emissions and is itself a key transition fuel as Ireland seeks to decarbonise its energy market, Gas Networks Ireland is introducing renewable gas into the Irish market as a means of further reducing emissions.
Utilised in the same way as natural gas, renewable gas is used in the same appliances and the customer, business or domestic, will not be aware that the gas they are using has changed to renewable gas. From a business perspective, this means that businesses and homeowners can adopt a new renewable fuel without any investment.
The difference with renewable gas is in how it is made. Natural gas is extracted as a fossil fuel from the earth. Renewable gas is generated principally through a process called anaerobic digestion. The benefits of renewable gas outstrip even those of natural gas. In addition to being a flexible fuel source, which gives users complete control, renewable gas is by definition a renewable source of energy.
In addition to this, the feedstock for renewable gas will be sourced in Ireland. By using organic waste from agricultural, food processing and waste management industries to make renewable gas, the emissions from these industries are significantly reduced. This delivers a double saving. By reducing our emissions, we take a step closer to avoiding heavy fines from the EU Commission.
Gas Networks Ireland believes that indigenous renewable gas could provide 20 per cent of Ireland’s gas needs by 2030, with this figure growing rapidly thereafter. This would make a significant impact on reducing Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions and will ensure that Ireland remains a country in which environmentally-sound manufacturing is possible.
A new clean transport network
Ireland’s heavy goods vehicles contribute nearly 20 per cent of Ireland’s road transport-related emissions. Because the emissions from commercial transport are caused by relatively few vehicles, addressing the emissions in this sector can have a big impact on reducing overall emissions.
In January, Gas Networks Ireland announced the development of a new transport energy network – 70 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) filling stations located throughout Ireland. The new network will be aimed primarily at commercial users, giving them the opportunity to invest in a low or zero carbon fleet for the first time. This network will contribute to making Ireland’s transport sector green, while also helping to reduce costs for operators.
CNG immediately reduces carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 22 per cent compared to diesel. As more carbon neutral renewable gas is brought on to the gas network, these emissions will be completely eliminated. The first CNG trucks have already been delivered to Irish hauliers and Gas Networks Ireland has targets to make a major impact on the commercial transport and public transport markets in the coming years.
Worldwide there are 19 million Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs) in operation, and of these, 1.9 million are in Europe. Gas Networks Ireland is currently seeking sites and potential partners for the roll out of this new network. The Gas Networks Ireland Causeway Project will support the installation of the new CNG network and is co-financed by Gas Networks Ireland and the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility.
Expanding the network
At present, natural gas is available in over 160 population centres in 20 counties and there are approximately 674,000 customers who use gas every day in their homes and businesses. Gas Networks Ireland is developing the gas network to new towns across Ireland, with Wexford and Nenagh recently connected, and work to connect Listowel due to begin in May 2017.
Expanding the gas network to new towns, offers an opportunity to all homes and businesses to reduce their energy costs and to access cleaner energy from gas. Expanding the network to new users also reduces the overall cost of gas to all existing users on the network, as the cost of operating is shared between more users.
In addition to expanding to new towns, Gas Networks Ireland is looking to extend the network within existing centres. In total, Gas Networks will build 230km of additional gas distribution network between now and 2020.
Gas Networks Ireland estimates that there are 300,000 households in urban areas which are near the gas network but not connected to it. Therefore, there is considerable potential to extend (infill) the distribution gas mains in urban areas to a greater number of ‘within reach’ households. These houses will immediately benefit from the cost and emissions savings of natural gas.
The more people using natural gas over other fossil fuels the greater the economic and environmental benefits for the country in terms of lower fuel costs, greater fuel savings and lower emissions. With the imminent arrival of renewable gas on the network, these benefits will be further enhanced.
A vision for the future
Natural Gas is a secure, competitive and clean energy source. Increasing the availability of natural gas is an important step in reducing our emissions, safeguarding our environment and avoiding fines. Gas Networks Ireland is working to ensure that the natural gas network is utilised to the full benefit of the Irish people and plays a central role in providing secure, clean and efficient energy into the future.
Gas Networks Ireland
T: 1850 411 511