Behavioural change key to determine energy future

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

September 18th, 2018

Behavioural change will play a significant role in future global energy trends, a University College Cork (UCC) climate expert has said.

Speaking at an energy lecture presented by the Irish Royal Academy on Monday, Dr Paul Deane said that human behaviour would be a crucial factor in determining the world’s energy future.

“Technology changes are simply not enough, we really need to start looking at behavioural changes,” Dr Deane said.

“Our relationship with the energy system, our lifestyles, why do we consume so much, we really need to start looking at those more awkward and inward-looking questions,” he continued.

Dr Deane suggested that it is unlikely that we will be able to do away with fossil fuels by 2050 due to the complexity in changing over certain industries and equipment to run off renewable electricity.

“Some things are just really difficult to electrify, for example, trucks, planes or mining equipment,” he said. “We would need fossil fuels, oil or gas to produce a lot of these things.”

Dr Paul Deane Photo Shamim Malekmian

Dr Paul Deane Photo Shamim Malekmian

The Environmental Research Institute scientist said that we need to look for cleaner alternatives to traditional gas and oil energy resources.

“Electricity today is about a fifth of the energy that we use. It’s probably going to double in the future, but we need to have a conversation about other energy sources like clean gases and clean electro-fuels.”

Dr Deane said that our homes leak an extensive amount of energy every day, warning that the problem is not only detrimental for the environment but also jeopardises our health.

Almost 90 per cent of our housing stock was built before energy efficiency requirements were introduced, leaving Ireland last in Europe for emissions produced per square meter.

Our homes, he said, “fundamentally need to be healthier” as we have a “big problem” with energy loss from residential homes that is bad for the environment and “really bad” for our health.

“We have incredible problems in Ireland with fuel poverty, we also have high problems with cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses,” he continued.

National data reveal that 30.8 per cent of the population, who live below the poverty line, cannot afford to heat their homes

Dr Deane said that a cleaner energy future depends on variables such as social trends, public welfare and Government policies that are in concert with scientific endeavour. “Giving people dignified living conditions is just as important,” he said.

The talk was part of a series on cleaner energy models presented by the Irish Royal Academy in association with Hewlett Packard (HP) enterprises.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.