A new report shows that gas delivered more than half of Ireland's electricity, over 40% of Ireland's heating and nearly one third of all the energy used in the country.

The "Ireland's Gas Network - Delivering for Ireland" report, from Gas Networks Ireland, highlights the role that Ireland's €2.7 billion, 14,617km publicly owned gas network plays in the country's energy system.

The gas network delivers energy to over 706,000 customers every hour of every day.

Over 8,000 new customers contracted connections to the gas network last year, including over 4,000 new homes and apartment blocks.

Ireland's gas network generated revenues of €447m last year and paid a €70m dividend to the state. It also recorded €112m of capital and sustaining infrastructure investment.

Natural gas is the cleanest traditional fuel, emitting 40% less carbon than coal and 22% less carbon than oil.

Today's report also states that as the volume of renewable gases, such as biomethane and hydrogen, on the network increases, homes connected to the national network will increasingly reduce their carbon footprint without changing a thing.

During 2020, Gas Networks Ireland brought the first commercial flows of renewable gas on to the network, in addition to constructing several Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) filling stations for commercial vehicles.

There are now seven public and private CNG stations operational.

Gas Networks Ireland's Managing Director, Denis O'Sullivan, said that against the backdrop of global pandemic recovery, energy price volatility, emerging EU energy legislation and the need to meet climate action targets, we are operating successfully and playing an important role in challenging times for the energy industry.

"As a company, our focus remains on managing the gas network and on delivering gas safely and reliably," Mr O'Sullivan said.

"Our commitment to decarbonising the network and to delivering on climate change targets and reduced emissions is clear, and we continue to partner with all our stakeholders to plan for and deliver a cleaner energy future for Ireland," he added.

Gas Networks Ireland's Head of Regulatory Affairs, Brian Mullins, said that while most people associate gas with heating and cooking in homes, or providing energy for businesses, it is important to note that gas is the pillar of the country's electricity system and will continue to be so in the coming years.

"The security and flexibility that gas delivers is what allows the electricity system operator, Eirgrid, and others to bring more and more renewables on to the grid. Gas provides that essential, flexible and reliable back-up for intermittent renewables such as wind and solar," Mr Mullins said.

He said that gas complements renewable energy so that Ireland has a secure source of energy when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine.

"With existing power plant retirements and growing electricity demand, the latest analysis by Eirgrid of a potential shortfall in generation capacity has prompted the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) to signal that over 2,000MW of gas-fired power generation capacity will be required in the coming years to securely support the continued growth of renewable electricity generation," he added.