March Gas Demand Statement

Gas demand up 15% in March

After a very stormy February with a new monthly record for wind energy, a calmer March saw gas demand increase 15% month-on-month, led by a 36% increase in usage in gas fired power plants to compensate for lower renewable electricity generation.

March saw gas and wind change roles in terms of the contribution to Ireland’s electricity supply mix. Whilst February saw wind contribute 53% of the electricity generated, this contribution fell back to 33% in March. In parallel, the gas share of electricity generation rose from 28% in February to 41% March. Coal’s share also increased from 10% to 14% in March.

During March, gas-powered electricity peaked at 77% with a low of 8%, while coal peaked at 28% with a low of 4%.

At its peak, wind generated 76% of electricity, during March. However, given the variable nature of renewable energy sources, there were also times in the month when the wind supply dropped completely.

Gas Networks Ireland’s Head of Regulatory Affairs, Brian Mullins, said March’s figures highlight the important role of the gas network in Ireland’s cleaner energy future.

“Gas again highlighted its critical role in Ireland’s energy mix, meeting a 15% increase in demand from February to March as the availability of wind to generate electricity fell significantly,” Mr Mullins said.

“As well as meeting the needs of more than 710,000 customers, including many of the country’s largest industries dependant on gas for their high heat processes, it is typically Ireland’s primary source of electricity generation for nine or ten months of the year.

“Gas is the ideal partner to complement renewable energy sources such as wind. A very windy February allowed 53% of electricity to be generated by wind energy, while gas was only needed 28% of the time. However, in less windier months like January and March, gas stepped up and generated 45% and 41% respectively; while wind generated 33% in both months.

“Being able to harness wind energy when it is available and back it up with the flexibility and reliability of gas when it’s not, provides a secure and complete energy system for the people of Ireland.”

In March, gas demand increased 15% month-on-month and was up across several commercial sectors, including food and beverage (+33%), laundry (+24%) and retail (+11%). Gas demand decreased in the construction (-19%), residential (-13%), air travel (-7%) and leisure (-4%) sectors.

When compared to March 2021, there were significant increases in gas demand from the laundry (+98%), retail (+92%), hotel (+35%), office (+27%) and leisure (+22%) sectors given the strict public health restrictions in place this time last year.

In March, the gas transported through Ireland’s gas network was made up of 26% of natural gas from the Corrib fields, small volumes of indigenous biomethane entering the network in Cush, Co. Kildare; with the balance of Ireland’s gas requirements being imported via the interconnectors with Scotland

Mr Mullins said that while Ireland’s gas supply is secure and offers a cleaner alternative to oil and coal for homes and businesses, the development of indigenous renewable gas industries and storage projects can provide Ireland with an opportunity to enhance its energy diversity and security domestically in line with national and EU policy.

“Using the existing gas network and replacing natural gas with renewable gases, such as biomethane and hydrogen, to reduce emissions, ensures Ireland’s energy security, provides flexible and reliable back up to intermittent renewable electricity, while achieving this at the lowest cost and with least disruption,” Mr Mullins said.

“We are pleased to see that over the past two months, both the European Commission via its REPowerEU plan in March and the Irish Government via its National Energy Security Framework in April, have both highlighted the need to diversify gas supplies and speed up the development of a biomethane industry and national hydrogen strategy.

“These announcements align with our vision for a decarbonised gas network that will reduce emissions across every sector of the Irish economy, including those that are traditionally difficult to decarbonise, such as heating, transport, manufacturing, agriculture and power generation.”