Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the Irish power generation and industrial sectors decreased in 2020, though an increase in emissions was recorded for the dairy processing sector.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a preliminary analysis of GHG emissions in 2020 today (Tuesday, April 13).

Emissions from power generation and industrial companies fell by 6.4% last year to the lowest levels since 2005.

However, this decrease was lower than the overall decrease throughout the EU, which was 11% to 12%.

The dairy processing sector saw an increase in 2020 emissions of 4%.

According to the EPA, the overall decrease is due to lower production in some industrial sectors during the pandemic, combined with a significant drop in power generation emissions.

Emissions from power generation fell by 8.4%, largely as a result of an increased presence of renewable energy – mainly wind generation – and less use of fossil fuels, such as peat.

On the flip side, emissions from the coal-fired power plant in Moneypoint, Co. Clare, increased by almost 27%, mainly due to increased demand for balance on the National Grid.

Elsewhere, cement industries recorded a 5.7% overall decrease in emissions, while emissions from pharmachemical industries went in the opposite direction, increasing by 10.9%.

As might be expected, considering the Covid-19 pandemic, aviation emissions saw a substantial decrease, falling by 63% in 2020 (this accounts for flights within the European Economic Area).

The only airline that saw an increase in emissions specialises in air freight.

“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,” said Dr. Maria Martin, EPA senior manager.

“There are, nevertheless, many companies in the industrial sectors, such as dairy processing and pharmachemical, where emissions are increasing year-on-year,” Dr. Martin added.

The EPA released the data as part of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) for which the EPA is the competent authority in Ireland.

The agency noted that the price of carbon under the ETS moved from €31/t at the end of 2020 to €43/t now, though 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 under the ETS, including some in the food and drink sectors.

Further information on GHG emission in the EU in 2020 can be found here.