Green Energy Options for Irish Consumers

Sustainable or ‘green’ energy is the energy generated from resources that do not produce greenhouse gas emissions. This type of energy is attractive to consumers because it doesn’t pollute our environment and can be sourced more sustainably and cost effectively.

Renewable energy resources are green in nature, meaning that they are carbon dioxide emission-free. Besides being green, such sources of energy can also be replenished naturally. This means that renewable energy resources are not at risk of exhaustion, unlike fossil fuels which rely heavily on inefficient and unsustainable methods of extraction from the Earth.

Renewable energy resources have gained great attention over the last few decades, primarily due to the increased global warming rate, which has consequently led to climate change across the globe. 

The use of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, has led to increased greenhouse gas emissions. The combustion of fossil fuel releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), among others. These gases trap heat within our atmosphere leading to droughts, intense storms, heatwaves, warming oceans, rising sea levels, and directly harming both humans and animals.

The climate change issue has reached a crisis point and needs to be addressed by corporations and private citizens across the planet and, of course, Ireland has its own share of the role to play, making it important to assess the green energy options available for Irish consumers. 

The utilisation of green energy as the main source of energy in the country is vital in combating climate change and as Ireland’s leading energy supplier, our aim is to help you make better energy choices, ultimately saving you money in the longer term and giving you energy independence for a brighter energy future.

What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable (aka ‘green’) energy is the power generated from natural resources that are continually replenished, meaning it cannot be depleted unlike fossil fuels, which diminish in abundance every time they are used. Some of the renewable energy sources include solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy, hydro energy, tidal energy, and geothermal energy.

While some people usually think that renewable energy is a recently discovered energy technology, harnessing natural energy has taken place for years. Renewable energy has been harnessed for years to provide energy for heating, transportation, lighting, and other activities. By 3,000 BC, proto-Austronesian people were already using wind power to sail across the islands of the South Pacific. Around 3200 BC in Mesopotamia, there is diverse evidence that people were sailing boats through wind power.

What are Non-Renewable Energy Sources?

Non-renewable or unsustainable energy, also known as fossil fuels, are the energy sources that release greenhouse gas emissions when burnt to produce energy.

Fossil fuels include coal, gas, and oil. Coal was used first in the 19th century to produce electricity for use in homes and factories. Coal was then used intensively during the industrial revolution in Britain, Ireland and other parts of the world to provide fuel for reliably turning iron ores into iron.

Today, coal is still being used in different industries to provide energy for industrial operations. Notably, coal is being used to produce electricity for the mining industry, steel production, and cement manufacturing companies. This means that coal continues to saturate our delicate atmosphere with harmful carbon emissions, but thankfully measures are in place to reduce this historic over-reliance.

Oil and gas derivatives (petrol and diesel) are being used to fuel vehicles and for heating purposes across the world. Currently, there are an estimated 1.2 billion vehicles across the globe that are combustion-powered. Transport alone accounts for about one-fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions, with the wide scale adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) well underway to help combat this.

If we consider emissions from energy, transport accounts for 24 percent of the global CO2 emissions. In Ireland, transport is the main source of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for about 40 percent of all our nation’s emissions.

It’s clear that fossil fuels are still emitting a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and non-renewable sources of energy are constantly damaging our environment. We need to work to reverse some of the damage done by investing in clean energy to meet our energy needs.

Ireland’s Green Energy Options

There are various green energy options for Irish consumers. These options include solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, geothermal energy, biomass, and tidal energy. These energy options possess the capability to wipe out unsustainable energy in Ireland completely.

Solar Energy

Solar remains one of the key clean energy sources for Irish homeowners, businesses, and industries. Ireland's National Mitigation Plan outlines concrete pathways towards Irish decarbonisation, with solar energy cited as one of our most viable options when it comes to increasing renewable energy generation in our country.

The cost of solar panel installation has been falling at a great pace due to increased research and investment in renewable energy, which consequently leads to innovation and technological developments in the sector.

New and evolving photovoltaic technologies usually result in a decreased cost of solar energy, making it more affordable for Irish homeowners, giving you the option to invest in a clean energy source at an affordable cost that delivers great long term savings and benefits.

Encouragingly for climate protectionists, our government has continued to commit to support domestic solar power growth. Underpinning its Climate Action Plan, the Irish government pledges full support for the installation of domestic solar panels nationwide and offers a range of attractive grant and funding incentives to encourage uptake.

For example, the SEAI offers €900 per kWp up to 2kWp, meaning that a homeowner receives €1800 for 2kWp generated in solar energy*. Thus, solar energy is a hugely attractive green energy option for Irish consumers.

*Figures at time of publishing, subject to change

The adoption of solar technology in Ireland is intended to diversify the country’s deployment of green energy portfolios. The current deployment target period spans a nine-year period between 2021 and 2030, with a key focus on cost efficiency and effectiveness. 

Solar is convenient and adaptable, perfectly suited to Ireland’s green energy drive, which you can read about in more detail in our comprehensive solar energy guide.

Wind Energy

Wind energy is another highly compatible green option for Irish energy consumers. Normalised wind accounts for about 55 percent of all the renewable energy generated in the country and per the latest SEAI statistics, wind energy accounts for 28 percent of the total electricity generated, indicating that wind energy has been taking shape in Ireland.

Given our natural climate, Ireland is primed to capitalise on this opportunity, and we’re the second-largest share of wind energy in the EU, behind Denmark. 

The main issue with scaling further remains to be our nation’s poorly-interconnected electricity grid that poses a challenge of stabilising operations of the grid. A large share of non-synchronous wind generation requires a stable grid that can handle all operations.

In the first quarter of 2020, wind energy became the top source of electricity in Ireland, with the country’s network producing 3,390 GWh of wind energy compared to its closest rival, natural gas, responsible for 3,234 GWh within the same period. 

We have unrivalled potential for embracing wind energy, increasing steadily like a strong headwind throughout 2021 and beyond with the aim of making it a sustainable long-term solution for Irish consumers.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal power is the energy derived from below the earth's surface. Its heat can be sourced close to the ground level or from heated rocks and reservoirs of hot water that are located deeper, towards our planet’s core

Geothermal power plants are used to harness the massive energy below our feet to generate electricity. Currently, we don’t have any in operation, but with that set to change in the very near future with government funding approved for 3 new facilities which will be an exciting precedent for our national energy infrastructure.

For home and business application, a geothermal heat pump system can be used to leverage the constant temperature of the ground located approximately 5 meters below ground level to generate heat for domestic or commercial consumption.

Geothermal possesses the capability to be part of the commercial utility energy solution in Ireland on a large scale and can play a crucial role in offering a more diverse range of sustainable options for homeowners.

Hydro Energy

The generation of electricity from water is a technique used in different regions throughout Ireland with Ardnacrusha, perhaps the best known among them, accounting for 2 percent of our domestic energy production alone.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proven through in-depth field studies that the country has great potential for hydropower, identifying various hydrometric gauges, rivers, coastal water bodies, lakes, streams, transitional water bodies, and groundwater bodies that are ripe for hydro power delivery potential. 

However, hydropower’s total contribution to Ireland's total energy mix is currently less than 3 percent due to the increasing deployment of wind and solar energy.

Other Renewable Energy Options

In addition to an abundance of solar, wind and hydro power generation opportunities given our unique geological makeup, our country also has both biomass and tidal energy potential.

Biomass entails the utilisation of organic materials that have the potential of being converted to heat, electricity, and transportation fuels. Wood has long been used in residential energy systems for heating purposes and is still used today in sawmilling as well as wood-based panel sectors to generate heat for drying and processing.

Woman in quarry

Solid biomass is currently used for co-firing with peat in some existing power plants and industrial CHP plants. The availability of biomass boilers and solid fuel stoves creates the room for biomass expansion in the country.

In a ‘wave’ of support for the promotion of a fledgling tidal energy sector, our national Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan has designated three distinct areas as suitable for tidal energy development; the South-East coast of Ireland, Shannon Estuary, and the North West coast of Ireland. 

Total development potential of about 3000MW of tidal energy was identified within the three areas which, although a smaller portion than some of the other renewable energy generation routes, is well worth the investment and offers yet another green energy choice for consumers.

What is Bord Gáis Energy doing in the Green Energy Space?

The CRU and the Single Electricity Market Operator (SEMO) conduct an annual verification process of green source products, enabling these two bodies to validate whether a company produces 100 percent renewable energy or not.

Here at Bord Gáis Energy, we have launched the first in a series of new green energy propositions and services to help our customers live more sustainably, and reduce their carbon emissions. These innovative plans, that are now available to our customers, include a dual fuel plan with 100% green electricity plus 10% gas, both from renewable sources. There’s also a 100% green electricity-only option. We also have our ‘bundle’ product which includes green gas and green electricity, plus Hive Active Heating and an Amazon Echo Dot which enables environmentally conscious customers to further improve their home’s efficiency. 

We also have in place a range of home energy products and services, including Hive Active Heating, boiler servicing as well as Electric Vehicle charger installation from Bord Gáis Energy’s Local Heroes.  Additionally, we have green energy initiatives planned throughout this year and into next, all part of our commitment to supporting the Programme for Government and the ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions in Ireland. Our focus is on supporting our customers to reduce their carbon footprint and achieve net zero by 2050.

Two houses with solar panels

Benefits of Green Energy  

There are many fantastic positives to green energy that you can derive both immediate and sustained benefit from. Below are some of the advantages to be gained from embracing sustainability as a path to a brighter energy future. 

Financial Stability

Investing in green energy sources and upgrading your home’s efficiency brings increased financial stability for homeowners. 

When you’re connected to the main grid, electricity prices keep fluctuating, and this makes it hard to predict your energy bills. However, generating your own solar energy or wind energy gives you much tighter control over energy expenditure, meaning you’ll be saving significantly on utility bills.

Environmentally Sustainable

A photo of a forest.

The use of green energy offers environmental sustainability. Unlike fossil fuels, which produce greenhouse gas emissions, green energy is a clean energy resource. The more we deploy renewable energy sources in our energy mix, the better for our environment. 

Ireland has its own role to play in combating climate change, therefore, we need to generate as much renewable energy as possible. Utilising renewable energy sources will substantially reduce our carbon footprint and boost our climate’s chances of long-term prosperity.

Reliability and Security

Overhead view of a city.

Fossil fuels are at the risk of exhaustion, but renewable energy resources are naturally replenished. Shifting to green energy provides energy security for homes, businesses, and industries. Also, generating your own energy offers reliability and freedom, negating the need to look elsewhere for a steady power supply.

Power interruptions and outages have become common for the people dependent on main grids; but generating your own green energy ensures you control energy reliability. You can easily schedule your own maintenance periods and never have to worry about a blackout, meaning it pays in more ways than one to go green once and for all.

Bord Gáis Energy Green Energy Plans

At Bord Gáis Energy, our focus is on helping home and business owners to make more sustainable energy use choices. We want to help you save energy, reduce your energy bills, improve your energy reliability and security, and contribute to environmental conservation by shifting to green energy sources. 

We hope this guide has equipped you with all the information required to understand the options available on the Irish Green Energy market for a cleaner energy future.

If you’ve got a question on Green Energy or would like us to cover any other renewable energy topics or initiatives not covered in our sustainability hub, please contact us today and we’d be more than happy to assist with your request and provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision on the best way forward for your home energy needs.

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