Carbon emissions from Irish households are on average the highest in Europe, nearly 60 per cent higher than the EU, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).
Carbon emissions from Irish homes had been falling steadily for a decade, dropping by a quarter between 2005 and 2014. But between 2014 and 2016, carbon emissions increased by 7 per cent, according to a new SEAI study Energy in the Residential Sector.
Irish homes’ intense use of coal, peat and oil is mostly responsible for the comparably high amounts of carbon emissions.
The average Irish house uses around 7 per cent more energy than the EU average. More disposable income coming out of the recession, and cheaper oil prices are behind the higher energy consumption, the study said.
Most energy use in Irish homes was for central heating, followed by heating for showers or baths, the recent study said.
Jim Scheer, head of energy research at the SEAI, said the figures showed there was “an urgent need” for Irish households to reduce their energy emissions. One major problem was the poor insulation of a large number of older Irish homes, where there was “an awful lot” of energy-rating upgrading work required across the country, Mr Scheer said.
“A move away from our over-reliance on fossil fuels is essential, alongside a move toward more significant energy efficiency improvements in the home, whether it be a cottage, semi-d or apartment” Mr Scheer said.
The number of houses has increased by nearly 40 per cent over the last two decades, in line with Ireland’s growing population, up to 1.7 million homes.
In 2016, Irish homes made up around a quarter of the country’s overall energy use, totalling 9.7m tonnes of carbon emissions. The country’s combined energy bill for 2016 came to €3.4 billion.
While higher building standards mean new homes are very energy efficient, a greater focus was needed to upgrade older homes, Mr Sheer said.
Government funding has been provided to retrofit more than 375,000 homes since 2000, but Mr Sheer said more homeowners needed to be informed of the benefits of upgrading their home, and of schemes offering financial incentives to do so.