January 24th, 2018
Ireland’s entire housing stock must be retrofitted to higher energy standards if we are to achieve our impending climate and energy targets, the Dail’s Climate Action Committee heard yesterday.
Speaking before a Committee hearing on Ireland’s 2020 energy targets, the CEO of the Tipperary Energy Agency, Paul Kenny, said that all homes in Ireland will need to be retrofitted to an A or B-rating on the Building Energy Rating (BER) scale by 2050.
BER is measured on energy performance and CO2 emissions, ranging from A – the most energy-efficient – down to G.
He told the Committee that this process will entail putting in thicker insulation, reducing air leakage, installing ventilation systems for high indoor air quality, using rooftop solar panels for electricity need and heat pumps for low carbon heating.
Almost 90 per cent of our housing stock was built before energy efficiency requirements were introduced, leaving Ireland in last place for emissions produced per square meter of built houses in the EU.
Experts say that this is down to our dependence on oil and gas for heating; with Mr Kenny telling the Committee that it is “critical” that fossil fuel heating systems are not used in any new homes if we are to meet our 2050 climate target of an 80 to 95 per cent cut in our overall emissions.
“The consequences of not meeting these targets are a legacy for us, and our children contending with migration, floods and all the negative consequences that climate change will bring,” he warned.
Tipperary Energy Agency has been involved in projects to reduce energy-related carbon emissions since 2005, completing 75 deep retrofits under a variety of SEAI supported schemes since 2015 alone.
According to Mr Kenny, these homes have experienced a 60 to 80 per cent reduction in energy costs, carbon and fuel use, with the average homeowners now spending only €300 to €400 on heating per year.
He said, however, that it will be “eye wateringly expensive” – €10-€20 billion – for the State to fund such work for the entire country. He added that a nationwide retrofitting scheme can only be achieved through a mixture of grants, additional carbon tax, and low-cost finance for homeowners.
He said that a stable long-term policy framework from Government could facilitate low-cost financing of renovation works, and called for an independent advice mechanism to be set up for householders.
Mr Kenny also called on the Committee to push the cabinet to “urgently support” microgeneration from rooftop solar and allow homeowners to be more directly involved in the energy transition.
“The Solar PV opportunity presents a unique opportunity right now, with low cost solar, rapid deployment available,” he said. “We should ensure that the right conditions that SMES, communities, farmers and homeowners can engage in the energy transition in line with the large-scale developers.”
Support for microgeneration was excluded in the latest draft of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The Government said that it is leaving out micro-scale generation as it is “more cost-effective” to focus on medium and large-scale projects.
Also speaking at yesterday’s hearing, the Managing Director of SSE Ireland, Stephen Wheeler, outlined the potential of offshore wind energy to meet Ireland’s 2020 target to produce 16 per cent of our energy needs from renewables.
Offshore Wind Potential
SSE is Ireland’s largest renewable energy developer and generator and is involved in over 8,000MW of offshore wind projects in the UK, 900MW of which is already providing energy to UK customers.
The energy company was also involved in the development of the Arklow Bank 25MW offshore wind farm in 2004. To date, however, the demonstration project remains Ireland’s only operational offshore wind farm.
“In Ireland, we have one of the strongest offshore wind resources in the world; yet we are the only country in Northern Europe not currently developing offshore capacity,” Mr Wheeler said.
He warned that offshore wind is unlikely to take off here without a strong support scheme, an effective grid connection policy, and “efficient management of the consenting process”.
Another major stumbling block, Mr Wheeler said, is the Government’s decision to lump all renewable sectors together in a technology-neutral auction under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme.
“The technology-neutral approach proposed will not give offshore wind projects investment clarity in the timeframe that we need,” he said, adding that he “fears” the decision will lead to an “overreliance” on onshore technology such as wind turbines and solar farms.