The fossil fuel industry lost out on almost €1 billion last year – with an additional €300 million saved on carbon credits – as wind farms provided 35 per cent of the island’s electricity and set a new record for the amount of power they produced.
The figures come from Wind Energy Ireland’s Annual Report and a new analysis published by energy specialists Baringa entitled Cutting Carbon, Cutting Bills: Analysis of savings in gas consumption delivered by wind farms in 2023.
The Baringa analysis found that without wind energy, Ireland would have had to spend an additional €918 million on gas, most of which would have been imported, for power generation in 2023 and an extra €358million on carbon credits to burn that gas. An additional €279 million (£240 million) was saved in Northern Ireland.
They also estimate that Irish wind farms saved approximately 4.2 million tonnes of carbon last year which is roughly equivalent to the amount of carbon produced by 1.9 million cars.
The total amount saved on gas of nearly €1.3 billion was down on the €2 billion saved in 2022 due to significantly lower wholesale gas prices over the past year.
Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, said: “Electricity generated from Irish wind farms replaces imported fossil fuels. The more wind we can get on the electricity grid, the less we rely on imported gas and the more we can cut our carbon emissions and keep that money at home.
“Our members can be proud of the role Irish wind farms are playing in supporting Irish electricity consumers and reducing our carbon emissions. It is a true success story, and we are on the way to an energy independent future for Ireland.
“But we cannot build the wind farms we need to achieve energy independence without a planning system that is fit for purpose and we cannot get the power to where it is needed without support for EirGrid and ESB Networks to develop a much stronger electricity grid.
“Progress to date on the Planning and Development Bill has been welcomed by industry and the Government’s plan to put in place mandatory timelines for planning decisions as part of the new legislation needs to be fully supported. Both planning reform and grid reinforcement must remain top priorities right across the political system in 2024.”
Wind’s best year on record
Wind Energy Ireland confirmed that wind farms provided 35 per cent of Ireland and Northen Ireland’s electricity in 2023, totalling a record breaking 13,725 gigawatt-hours (GWh).
This figure represents the largest annual amount of wind power generated by our wind farms to date and it is equivalent to the electricity consumption of more than 3 million Irish families, surpassing the previous record of 13,699 GWh set in 2020.
It follows a particularly strong performance last month with wind energy providing exactly half the country’s electricity, making it the best month for wind power generation in 2023.
There is also more good news for consumers as the average wholesale price of electricity in December 2023 was €88.97 per megawatt-hour (MWh), down 68 per cent from €276.52 in December 2022 raising the possibility of these savings being passed on to consumers in the coming months.
Noel explained: “We know that consumers and businesses are struggling every day with high energy bills. They need their electricity to be affordable as well as clean.
“The continued annual fall in wholesale electricity prices is welcome news. We are gradually starting to see these price reductions being passed onto consumers in their energy bills and we hope to see this continue in 2024.
“The good news is that if we continue investing in renewables, if Government, industry and communities work closely together, we can and will do even more to bring energy bills under control and make Ireland energy independent.”