A new National Heat Survey by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has stressed the need for urgent and early action to eliminate the carbon dioxide emissions associated with heating in Ireland.
It said the rapid uptake of heat pump systems in homes and industry will be crucial and called for a timetable for Ireland to phase out fossil fuels as soon as possible.
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan said that new-to-Ireland technologies, such as district heating, will play a large role in the decarbonisation of our heat sector.
Despite many businesses and households having installed more efficient technology and using less solid fuel, greenhouse gas emissions from the energy used for heating are continuing to grow. It now accounts for a quarter of Ireland’s total emissions.
A wide range of energy efficiency measures have been included in the Climate Action Plan to tackle the issue. However, this new report from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland says those measures do not go far enough.
It says an unprecedented level of additional policy effort will be required to stay within proposed carbon budget limits and deliver the legally obliged 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The Government recently announced significantly improved grants and financial supports for home energy upgrades.
The report cautions that the existing approach will not guarantee the rapid decarbonisation needed to meet the goals of the Climate Action Legislation if it continues to prioritise reducing the demand for heat through energy efficiency and insulation, rather than having a specific focus on replacing fossil fuels in home heating.
It says that as much as half of the buildings in Ireland could be heated through district heating systems that would distribute waste heat from industry, electricity generation and other sources through local-level heating grids to residential, commercial and public buildings.
Minister Ryan said Ireland’s heat has the lowest percentage of renewable energy of any European country and that the actions required to deliver our 2050 targets will be addressed in the 2022 Climate Action Plan.
‘We need to act fast’
Director of Research and Policy Insights at the SEAI Margie McCarthy said the heating sector is responsible for no less than almost a quarter of our total greenhouse gases in this country
“So that’s a significant chunk of our emissions and it’s probably the area where we’ve achieved our least,”
she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. Ms McCarthy said the national heat study aimed to look at all the ways in which we use heating in our homes, businesses, and industry.
She said the study looked at fuel sources and available technologies and then modelled those technologies to plot the best pathway for us to achieve net zero in Ireland from heating.
Ms McCarthy said: “The key things that are coming out of the study are that we really need to act fast, as with all things climate, but there are some technologies that are ready to deploy right now and at scale.” She highlighted the recently announced retrofit scheme and the home energy upgrade scheme and said it is
“really important to look at your home or your business and assess what level of upgrade might be needed”.
The shift in mindset is trying to eliminate fossil fuels as quickly as possible because we have to get the least emissions from heating possible for Ireland by 2050, she said.
“That means focusing the minds on getting on low carbon technologies across our homes and businesses as quickly as possible.”