Ireland’s power generation and industrial emissions drop by 6.4 percent in 2020

Date released: Apr 13 2021

  • In 2020, greenhouse gas emissions from Irish power generation and industrial companies – covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme - fell by 6.4 per cent.
  • Emissions decreased by 8.4 per cent from the electricity generation sector, due to more renewable energy and less fossil fuels.
  • The overall decrease in industrial emissions is 3.5 per cent, with the cement industry emissions decreasing and increases recorded for the dairy and pharmachem sectors.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from aviation decreased by 63 per cent compared to 2019, which reflects the significant impact of Covid-19.

13 April 2021: The EPA, as the Competent Authority in Ireland for the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), today released its preliminary analysis of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.  Emissions from Irish power generation and industrial companies fell by 6.4 per cent (0.9 million tonnes) in 2020, to their lowest level since the EU ETS was introduced in 2005.  This compares with a decrease of approximately 11-12 per cent across Europe.

The decrease in emissions is due to the impact of lower production in some industrial sectors during the pandemic, combined with a significant drop in power generation emissions. Power generation emissions dropped by 8.4 per cent as a result of the strong presence of renewable energy - mainly wind generation - and less use of fossil fuels, such as peat, in our energy mix. In contrast, emissions from the ESB coal-fired plant at Moneypoint increased by almost 27 per cent, mainly due to increased demand for balance on the National Grid.

Aside from power generation, the decrease in industrial emissions collectively is 3.5 per cent.

  • Cement industries recorded a 5.7 per cent decrease overall;
  • the dairy processing industry showed a 4.0 per cent increase and
  • emissions from pharmachem industries increased by 10.9 per cent.

Aviation emissions from flights within the European Economic Area reported to Ireland decreased by 63 per cent compared to 2019, to 4.74 million tonnes. The only airline showing an increase in emissions in 2019 and 2020 specialises in air freight.

Dr Maria Martin, EPA Senior Manager, said:

“We welcome the overall decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 from large industry and power generation. However, underlying this decrease are some contrasting trends. An increase in the use of renewables in the power generation sector - coupled with the impact of Covid-19 - leads to less emissions. There are, nevertheless, many companies in the industrial sectors, such as dairy processing and pharmachem, where emissions are increasing year on year. 

A positive development is the fact that the price of carbon in the EU ETS has continued to rise from just under €31 per tonne at the end of 2020 to €43 per tonne currently. It is not yet clear if this will be sufficient and stable enough to drive emissions reductions.”

In Ireland, 105 major industrial and institutional sites were required to report their emissions for 2020 by 31 March 2021 in the Emissions Trading System. These include sites operating in the power generation, cement, lime, and oil refining sectors. Also included are large companies in sectors such as food & drink, pharmaceuticals and semi-conductors.

Details of the verified emissions of greenhouse gases in 2020 are available on the EU’s website. The data are not complete for all Member states. Analysis of the EU data can be found in Carbon Pulse.

Further details about Emissions Trading are available on the EPA website. Further information about Ireland's overall greenhouse gas emissions is also available on our website and the EPA has developed useful infographics and published the detailed greenhouse gas inventory here.


Further information: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie

Notes to Editor

EU Emissions Trading System
The Environmental Protection Agency is the competent authority for implementation of the EU Emissions Trading System in Ireland, including the administering of accounts on Ireland’s domain in the Union Registry. Seven aviation operators are currently included in the system, including five large, Irish licensed, commercial airlines.
The EU Emissions Trading System covers large energy users and electricity generators, these are known as “stationary installations”. 105 major industrial and institutional sites were required to report their emissions for 2020 to the EPA by 31 March 2021. Mobile sources in the form of large aircraft were introduced into the EU ETS for the first time in 2012. Aviation emissions reported to Ireland come mainly from flights in and out of Ireland and also flights anywhere within the European Economic Area (EEA) where the aircraft carrier has an operating licence from the Irish Aviation Authority.
For comparative purposes Ireland's verified EU Emissions Trading System emissions since 2008 were as follows (please note that from year to year the scope of the EU ETS can change somewhat as some installations close and new ones open):
Verified Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Mtonnes CO2) - Stationary Installations:

Year2008200920102011201220132014201520162017201820192020
CO2  20.38  17.22  17.36  15.77 16.89   15.69  15.96  16.84  17.74  16.90  15.52  14.18  13.28