Rising gas demand blocking both climate and energy security

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New research shows credibility of Government’s climate and energy security plans are at risk if rising gas demand continues to be ignored.

Friends of the Earth has published new research produced by the University College Cork MaREI centre on ‘Irish electricity and gas demand to 2050 in the context of climate commitments’ [1].

This research addresses major challenges regarding gas and electricity in relation to the Government’s ongoing energy security review. TDs and senators will be briefed on the research by its lead author Prof Hannah Daly and Friends of the Earth policy expert, Jerry Mac Evilly, in the Audio Visual room in Leinster House at 12 noon on Tuesday 6th December. 

Hannah Daly, Professor of sustainable energy and energy-systems modelling at University College Cork and lead author of the report said: 

“The source of Ireland’s energy insecurity and high prices is caused by over-dependence on fossil fuels, which are also the main cause of the climate emergency. Energy security measures must be aligned with climate policy, which requires rapid reductions in the consumption of all fossil fuels this decade.“The good news is that energy transition measures - like building domestic renewables, improving energy efficiency, reducing car dependency and district heating - all support energy security, lower bills and bring wider societal and economic benefits.”

Jerry Mac Evilly, Head of Policy at Friends of the Earth stated: 

“This research blows out of the water the misleading line that ‘we will have gas for decades to come’. Gas can no longer be treated as a type of benign necessity. Ireland is a facing a three-part energy crisis of affordability, pollution and supply as a result of our gas addiction. “All the evidence shows that gas is not the ‘transition fuel’ peddled by industry. The reality is that for Ireland’s climate action to be credible and to improve energy security, gas demand must rapidly reduce.”

Based on this research, Friends of the Earth is urging the Government to rethink its current approach to energy security in a number of different ways:

  1. The Government must not simply accept developments that risk locking-in high gas demand, particularly the proliferation of data centres, which are currently projected to use around a third of all our electricity by 2030. A much more critical and nuanced assessment is needed, based on climate obligations, before such developments are approved.
  2. If Ireland is building any new gas-fired power plants, the Government must put in place robust regulations to limit their use and make sure demand reduction and renewables are prioritised. 
  3. Reducing gas demand requires a rethink of assumptions around gas infrastructure and gas supply. At the moment, the policy debate is very focused on ensuring supply without properly considering the benefits of demand reduction. Energy security is the balance of supply and demand not simply chasing supply to meet ever-increasing demand. It is important that the Government and state agencies fully assess the benefits of reduced gas usage, including lower demands for gas imports, before any decisions on any types of fossil fuel infrastructure are made.

The main findings from the UCC research report include:

  • Ireland’s new carbon budget obligation require demand for fossil methane gas (misleadingly labelled ‘natural gas’) to fall by 40% this decade and a further 80% in the 2030s. This means by 2040 gas demand is reduced by 93% in the power sector, 85% in the residential sector and 67% in enterprise.
  • Huge growth in data centre electricity demand would substantially increase the challenges of meeting legally binding Sectoral Emissions Ceilings. If data centre growth uses a significant proportion of increasing renewable electricity generation, this will limit the potential for transport, buildings and industry sectors to meet their decarbonisation commitments.
  • While an increase in gas-fired electricity generation capacity is needed, largely to replace older polluting coal and peat-fired generation, the use of that capacity will have to decrease rapidly to stay within our carbon budgets. The modelling indicates that the share of time that gas capacity is used must be more than halved this decade for emissions to reduce in line with the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings.
  • The necessary reduction in gas-fired electricity use cannot be achieved without a very rapid acceleration in renewable electricity capacity deployment – around 15 GW of new wind and solar capacity this decade – and this challenge is amplified when higher demand growth from data centres is allowed. Any failure to rapidly deploy far greater renewable electricity capacity would lead to an increased utilisation rate of natural gas capacity, with a consequent increase in emissions and the risks of breaching Sectoral Emissions Ceilings.
  • EirGrid and Gas Networks Ireland produce projections of future electricity generation capacity and natural gas demand without taking proper account of carbon budgets or the long-term net-zero commitment. The result is projections of demand which risk being misinterpreted by policy-makers and industry as being compatible with legally-binding climate commitments.
  • Energy security policy and energy infrastructure planning should also take into account the importance and high potential of both energy demand reduction and accelerated renewables deployment as valuable energy security measures which complement, rather than conflict with, climate policy. It is important that the Government and the CRU analyzes, before any decisions on new fossil fuel infrastructure, the potential for reduced gas usage in line with Sectoral Emissions Ceilings to result in lower demands for GB imports from the Moffat Entry Point in Scotland.


  1. The research report can be viewed in full here: https://www.foe.ie/assets/files/pdf/ucc_marei_-_research_report_-_final.pdf