Home and business heat emissions not falling fast enough, SEAI warns

Renewable heat a climate priority but Ireland not on track to meet targets

“Stagnation in reducing heat demand is a major cause for concern given the large share of fossil fuel consumption used for heat,” says SEAI chief executive William Walsh.

“Stagnation in reducing heat demand is a major cause for concern given the large share of fossil fuel consumption used for heat,” says SEAI chief executive William Walsh.

 

Energy use for heat in Irish homes and businesses decreased by only 0.7 per cent in 2019, according to latest figures from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Some EU countries have more than 60 per cent renewable heat while Ireland has just over 6 per cent, it confirms, because of a continuing reliance on fossil fuels used in homes, commercial buildings and State-owned buildings.

Collectively, these sectors account for more than one-third of national energy use and CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel use.

“The slow level of progress is not at the rate required to achieve our [national] climate ambitions,” the SEAI warns – the figure of less than 1 per cent takes into account the impact of warmer weather last year.

The Government has plans to improve energy efficiency in 500,000 homes and to deliver on ambitious renewable heat targets by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heating.

Stagnation fears

Energy demand fell by 0.6 per cent last year; the first time it has reduced since 2014, but this was mostly due to milder weather. CO2 emissions from fossil fuels fell by 4.5 per cent in 2019; the largest yearly reduction since 2011, at the height of the last recession. Most progress, however, was in electricity generation, “with little improvement in transport, or in heat when the impact of the warmer weather is taken into account”.

“Stagnation in reducing heat demand is a major cause for concern given the large share of fossil fuel consumption used for heat,” said SEAI chief executive William Walsh.

To get on track with eliminating fossil fuels from Ireland’s energy system, “we need a significant increase in the number of homes and businesses improving energy efficiency and switching to renewable sources of energy”, Mr Walsh added.

As Ireland’s national retrofit delivery body, SEAI was collaborating with the Government and key stakeholders to support households and businesses to take action, he confirmed. “This work will accelerate in 2021 thanks to increased budgets recently committed by Government.”

Deadline of 2050

It also supporting the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications in developing “policy pathways to fully decarbonise Ireland’s heat use by 2050 – a very significant challenge”.

Considerable energy emissions reductions were achieved in 2020 including transport but were associated with Covid-19 impacts. However, these reductions could be shortlived as and when the economy recovers, the SEAI notes.

Mr Walsh called for “a green wave of economic activity” compatible with the climate imperative which also provides significant employment. “Eliminating fossil fuel use from our homes and businesses provides such an opportunity,” he said.

With Government support, SEAI had significant supports available for people who want to save energy, improve building efficiency and make the switch to renewable technologies right now, he underlined.

He urged people to look at these supports, contact SEAI “and take climate action now for warmer buildings and lower energy bills”.

The Energy in Ireland 2020 report is available atseai.ie/energyinireland