Improved support needed for householders to ease switch from fossil fuels, says climate council

Call comes regarding heating homes as independent body welcomes 6% fall in carbon emissions by building sector

Barriers to heat pump installation should be addressed, according to the climate council.

The Government must provide greater supports for householders to end reliance on expensive, imported fossil fuels and switch more easily to heating their homes using cheaper renewable energy, according to the Climate Change Advisory Council.

This should include special measures to help older people convert to warmer, healthier homes, it recommends in its review of the building sector published on Thursday. Emissions from buildings last year fell by 6 per cent, partly due to expensive fossil fuels.

While welcoming increased capacity and delivery of the national retrofit plan including retrofitting of almost 48,000 homes in 2023, the independent body calls for upgrades to social homes to be doubled and for measures making it easier and cheaper to install heat pumps.

A national heat policy statement backed by legislation, it says, is required to ensure accelerated delivery of district heating schemes, which harness excess heat from industrial operations and provide cheap energy to surrounding homes.


“Embodied carbon emissions” in construction materials and existing buildings must be addressed, it adds. “The Government needs to encourage the renovation of derelict and vacant properties as well as better ... use of low-carbon materials such as timber within the construction sector to implement more sustainable building methods.”

Council chairwoman Marie Donnelly said: “We urgently need to phase out fossil fuels from our homes and workplaces ... Government must do more to help everyone make sustainable choices. Many of the worst-performing homes are likely to be owned by older people and householders least likely to be able to afford the work required. More must be done to support them and ensure that they are provided with necessary help to retrofit their houses and lower their heating costs.”

Barriers to heat pump installation should be addressed with increased grants and better information on suitability for, and operation of, heat pump systems, she said. Homes built after 2007 are now considered “heat pump ready” and do not require a technical assessment to avail of grant support.

Climate council member Jillian Mahon said the finalisation of a strengthened National Planning Framework this year was critical to supporting urban regeneration and enabling compact development and more efficient use of vacant land.

She welcomed the recently launched home energy upgrade loan scheme supporting homeowners to undertake retrofitting. “Further financial mechanisms are also needed to support those just above the threshold for energy poverty but who cannot afford a deep retrofit.”

The climate council says “sectoral adaptation plans” are needed to make buildings more resilient as climate change exacerbates flooding, extreme rainfall, droughts and intense storms. The residential sector is on track to meet its sectoral emissions ceiling set in the 2021-2025 carbon budget.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times