Sustainability Report 2020

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Vision 2050: The importance of a net-zero carbon gas network in Ireland’s cleaner energy future

Climate change is one of the greatest and most urgent global challenges and the national gas network is ready to play its role in helping Ireland achieve a cleaner energy future.

Emitting significantly less carbon than coal and oil, natural gas has played an important role in reducing Ireland’s energy emissions since the 1970. Today, the national gas network is the corner stone of Ireland’s energy system, powering more than 30% of Ireland’s primary energy needs, 40% of the country’s heating and 50% of electricity generation.

Considered one of the safest and most modern networks in the world, more than 706,000 Irish homes and businesses trust the national gas network to provide cleaner, affordable and reliable energy to meet their heating, cooking and transport needs.

The trusted power behind Ireland’s electricity, the national gas network will continue to play an integral role in the country’s transition to a sustainable and secure low carbon economy. 

In 2020, gas demand for electricity generation ranged between 25% and almost 90%. When the wind didn’t blow and the sun didn’t shine, Ireland relied on the national gas network to ensure that the lights stayed on, our devices were powered and our essential services were able to operate.

The responsiveness and reliability of Ireland’s gas network make it the ideal partner for intermittent renewable electricity sources. The more Ireland electrifies, the more critical reliable gas-powered electricity becomes to Ireland’s energy security.

Gas is also particularly important for many Irish industries. Businesses know they can depend on the gas network to deliver the versatile, high intensity heat their processes require.

However, while natural gas is the cleanest conventional fuel, Ireland must transition to more sustainable alternatives to meet its climate action targets. Transitioning to a clean energy economy by 2050 requires a balance between sustainability, security and affordability.

Gas Networks Ireland’s ambition is for a net-zero carbon gas network by 2050 and to support emissions reductions across every sector of the Irish economy, in the least cost, least disruptive, safe and secure manner. Leveraging existing energy assets and capabilities will enable Ireland to reach its targets effectively.

Proven and growing global technologies, such as compressed natural gas (CNG), and renewable gases, including biomethane and hydrogen, can all play a part in helping decarbonise Ireland’s energy system. The national gas network is critical to delivering a cleaner energy future and Gas Networks Ireland is working to make this possible.

Biomethane

In 2019, Ireland began its journey to a net-zero carbon gas network, with the introduction of domestically produced biomethane into the national gas network. Biomethane is largely identical to natural gas, meaning that it can seamlessly replace gas in appliances, heating systems, transport and power generation. 

Biomethane, is made from farm and food waste through a process known as anaerobic digestion, which the EU Green Deal has identified as a key tool in decarbonising European agriculture. Leading companies in Ireland are now creating sustainable circular economies by purchasing renewable gas made from their own waste to power their operations.

A biomethane industry in Ireland would support the decarbonisation of the agricultural sector and provide significant opportunities to rural communities

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a carbon free gas that can be produced from renewable electricity and stored indefinitely, making it an attractive option to decarbonise energy systems and a strong example of how greater integration between our gas and electricity systems can drive a cleaner energy future for Ireland.

Ireland’s gas network is one of the safest and most modern gas networks in Europe. Blends of up to 20% hydrogen could be transported on the existing gas network and used in existing appliances, technology and vehicles, with minimal disruption and upfront cost to customers. Pure 100% hydrogen can be transported with some modifications to the network. 

To ensure that hydrogen can be transported safely to homes and businesses around the country, we recently opened a Hydrogen Innovation Centre in Dublin and are testing how best to safely transport hydrogen for use in Irish homes and businesses.

Compressed natural gas in transport

Heavy goods vehicles and buses account for a disproportionate amount of Ireland’s transport emissions. Emitting significantly less carbon dioxide than diesel and petrol, compressed natural gas (CNG) is a cleaner and affordable alternative fuel that is helping to decarbonise the Irish transport sector. Furthermore, CNG vehicles are entirely compatible with biomethane, meaning that as Ireland gradually increases the volume of biomethane on the national network, vehicles refuelling from the gas network will further reduce their carbon footprint without changing a thing.

A proven and reliable transport fuel, Ireland’s CNG vehicle numbers grew more than 50% in 2020 as the number worldwide surpassed 28 million. We are developing a network of CNG refuelling stations across Ireland in partnership with Ireland's forecourt operators and hauliers, and helping to make the transition to gas-powered vehicles more affordable for fleet operators through our CNG Vehicle Grant Scheme, which provides grants of up to €5,000 per vehicle.