UKIFDA chief executive Guy Pulham comments; “We want to work with ministers within government and newly elected Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who will hold the post until 2022 when Leo Varadkar takes over, in developing a pathway for off-grid heating in rural communities to help to achieve ambitions for a net-zero carbon economy. We are though, disappointed that there is not much detail in the published ‘Programme For Government – Our Shared Future’ with no specifics on numbers behind all the objectives. They say they are developing a new area-based and one-stop-shop approach to retrofitting, to upgrade at least 500,000 homes to a B2 by 2030 and provide €5 billion to part fund a socially progressive national retrofitting programme, targeting all homes but with a particular emphasis on the Midlands region and on social and low-income tenancies, but with the effects of COVID 19 on the economy how is this being done?”
Financial disadvantages must be avoided
“We will be emphasising to the government that we must not put the 686,000 oil heated homes across Ireland at a disadvantage. Our supply chain, for domestic liquid fuels (used for home heating and hot water) accepts the urgent need to decarbonise heating. Liquid fuel, more specifically a bio product, can be part of the solution to achieve net zero. We believe large scale electrification through the use of heat pumps is not the answer and government need to look at alternatives as this is not feasible, due to high installation and running costs of installing heat pumps for off grid homeowners.
“Importantly though, we are hopeful that statements such as – “As we set our society on a trajectory towards net zero emissions by 2050, it is vital that there is adequate time and effort devoted to working with communities and sectors in designing and delivering the pathway to achieve the goal in a fair way.” means the government are open to talking to our industry about biofuels.”
Nick Hayes UKIFDA’s Irish representative comments; “It is disappointing with all the financial turmoil the people are experiencing that there will be additional increases to the carbon tax which will again directly affect those fuel poor households who are already struggling due to the effects of COVID 19. Ireland already has 400,000 households in fuel poverty and this figure is likely to rise. We would also like to see more detail behind the figures in the government’s Programme. With Ireland currently experiencing economic turmoil and all the planned retrofitting changes we are concerned how the government is going to fund such plans without again plunging households into further poverty.”
Appropriate heating systems to properties
Nick Hayes continues; “We believe that different solutions are needed to suit different households and budgets. We will be lobbying the new government to implement policy that should be focussed on ensuring that ‘heating systems are appropriate to properties heating requirements’ while clearly demonstrating both carbon abatements and strong particle emission controls. In the 2016 Census, 36% of the Irish population lived in cities, 34% lived in rural towns and 30% in the countryside. Of the 686,000 households in Ireland on heating oil just 11% of homes are on oil in Dublin, compared with 76% in Monaghan and 70% in Cavan with the average across rural Ireland being 65%. Ireland is thus a very rural country and most of the population is off the mains gas grid.
“It is also important to understand the very specific nature of the housing stock that our UKIFDA members service with heating oil. Ireland’s housing stock has been identified as being amongst the least energy efficient in Northern Europe, therefore, energy consumption in the domestic sector is greater than necessary. Regulations governing the energy efficiency of new dwellings were not introduced in the Republic of Ireland until 1979 yet 50% of the current housing stock was constructed prior to 1979 and it was not until 2006 that significant thermal retrofits were introduced. Hence most houses in Ireland are considered to be thermally substandard. Because of this, we believe the widespread use of heat pumps is not the only solution this government should be focusing on. The social implications for having a dependence on one technology are also important and should not be understated.”
Affordable decarbonisation landscape
Guy Pulham adds; “We have developed a strategy in partnership with other trade associations in our supply chain that meets the needs of the off-grid consumer as well as the urgent need to address climate change. Our strategy is a transition that does not disadvantage the consumer with wholesale costly changes to their property and is a stepped approach toward a transition to 100% biofuel to replace heating oil in 686,000 homes across Ireland.
“In order to achieve this though, we want the new government to implement policies that will help the forgotten rural fuel poor whilst also cutting carbon emissions and we will be lobbying the government to ensure biofuels is part of the decarbonisation landscape.
“We believe our strategy is a practical, affordable and effective solution which addresses key government requirements: to keep energy bills low; cost effectively reduce carbon emissions; ensure a secure, resilient energy supply; bring economic benefits and avoid unreasonable upfront costs for consumers. It is vital that the right solutions are implemented in the right homes to achieve the lowest cost per tonne of carbon saving ratio.”