Slight drop in gas demand due to Covid-19 lockdowns

The national gas network powered 51% of the country’s electricity requirements for 2020 and more than 85% at its peak in August.

Wind supplied 36.7% of electricity and coal and peat – a combined 7.9%, prior to Ireland’s remaining peat plants ceasing operation in December, according to the latest data from Gas Networks Ireland.

Overall, gas demand was largely stable in a year of economic turbulence, with a small drop of 0.3% of total demand largely down to reductions in some commercial sectors due to Covid-19.

Sectors

Significant reductions in gas usage were observed across construction (-25%), hotels (-11%), travel (-24%), leisure (-36%) and laundry (-35%) as the impact of national Covid-19 restrictions was felt across Ireland during the bulk of 2020.

Data source: Gas Networks Ireland

However, a number of sectors experienced increased gas demand.

As work and commerce moved online, data centres played an increasingly important role in keeping the economy going and society engaged. This was reflected in a 27% increase in gas demand in that sector.

It was a similar story among health-related industries, with pharmaceuticals (+5%), medical devices (+2.5%) and hospitals (+2.4%) stepping up to support the country through the pandemic.

Gas demand from the food and beverage sector remained resilient during the early months of the year but fell off in the last quarter in the run up to Brexit to close out the year on par with 2019.

Despite more than 8,000 new connections to the gas network in 2020, overall residential and small business gas demand fell 3.8% in 2020, as milder weather reduced demand for heating in homes and small businesses.

The impact of Covid-19 restrictions on small and medium-size enterprise (SME) businesses would also have played a part here.

Transport

Gas demand in transport continued to climb, as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicle numbers increased 50% and Ireland’s second publicly accessible CNG station opened at Circle K’s Cashel station.

These trends are likely to continue with the planned opening of stations in Limerick and Dublin north in 2021.

In total 58.69TWh of gas was used in 2020. Approximately 34% of gas supplies came from Corrib, under 2% from Kinsale prior to its closure in May, and nearly 64% imported through the gas interconnectors to Scotland.

2020 saw the commencement of renewable gas flows onto the network. Initial volumes were low but there are active planning applications progressing for renewable gas entry points.

Hydrogen Innovation Centre

Gas Networks Ireland’s Hydrogen Innovation Centre will also open in early 2021 as the network operator prepares for the potential reintroduction of hydrogen onto the gas network in the coming years.

Gas Networks Ireland’s head of regulatory affairs, Brian Mullins, said:

“Ireland’s national gas network continues to be the backbone of Ireland’s energy system, providing a third of the country’s primary energy needs and meeting over half of all electricity requirements securely and reliably.

Most importantly, gas is there to respond immediately and power up when renewable sources fluctuate. As electricity demand continues to increase, so too will the demand and need for gas.

“This increased demand has already been seen in the opening weeks of 2021, where gas demand has come close to record levels on a number of days. These high demand levels are being seen without schools and while tourism and hospitality and many business sectors are affected by Covid-19 restrictions nationally.

“We have made significant progress in 2020 on our vision to create a net carbon zero gas network. We are working to facilitate the introduction of renewable gases such as biomethane and hydrogen on to our network,” he concluded.