Ireland’s remarkable economic growth over the last 15 years had strong effects on the energy sector. Due to rapidly increasing demand, Ireland has become much more dependent on international energy markets than it was in the past. For Irish energy policy, 2007 is a watershed year. It marks the end of the transition in market liberalisation with the introduction of a unified national electricity market. In addition, the publication of a new energy policy should help to ensure future security of supply and bring environmental improvements of energy use.
Ireland is highly dependent on oil and increasingly dependent on natural gas. The price of these two commodities has strongly increased recently, which results in a heavy burden for the Irish economy and a risk for energy security. The main alternative in the supply side is coal and peat, which causes greenhouse gas emissions to rise much faster than expected. This review analyses the energy challenges facing Ireland and suggests solutions, focussing on moving ahead with market reform and increasing the energy efficiency of the Irish economy. Establishing the “All-Island” electricity market will be of critical importance. Sharper focus on energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy, but in particular in transport and buildings, must be a priority. Finally, to achieve its ambitious goals for renewables in energy supply, Ireland will have to provide ample resources for research and development, to allow technologies such as ocean power to move from the laboratory to the market.