The Irish Academy of Engineering has issued its latest Energy Policy Advisory to Government. It contains 15 recommendations which, it estimates, could reduce both 2020 transport energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions by over 15% below current predictions – and at relatively modest overall cost to the Exchequer. The challenge, according to the Academy, is to work towards Ireland’s ‘20-20-20’ climate-change commitments in the context of economic recovery and to enhance personal convenience, mobility and safety – while simultaneously reducing the costs of goods transport for business. According to the Academy, the results of this review were “pleasantly surprising”. The main findings are contained in the Policy Advisory, entitled Towards Low-Carbon Transport in Ireland, which concludes that opportunities exist to exploit the following potentials:

  • Reduce the national car fleet’s emissions by a further 20% and the light commercial vehicle fleet’s emissions by 10% by 2020, through the exploitation of new engines’ improved efficiencies;
  • Promote and facilitate ride-sharing, empowered by smartphone apps and other IT outlets;
  • Rethink transport policy in the context of occupancy-levels sustainability, where public transport is not necessarily more sustainable than private, and is only so at high occupancy levels;
  • Greater use of existing rail assets, particularly in the Greater Dublin Area commuter catchment.
EXPLOITING POTENTIAL In dealing with the first of these, the Policy Advisory states that transport motive technology is developing at an unprecedented pace. “The fuel efficiency of new cars sold in Ireland has improved substantially in recent years, driven by EU regulation of car manufacturers and incentivised by the Irish motor taxation regime,” it finds. By 2020, the Academy estimates that 60% of the national car fleet will consist of low-emission vehicles, reducing the fleet emissions footprint by 20%. The same trend is evident for light commercial vehicles, it says, reducing its footprint by 10% by 2020. “Heavy goods vehicle already feature high efficiency drive-trains, hence the best option for future emissions reduction lies in use of lower-carbon alternative fuels, and in higher levels of fleet operator and driver training, aided by on-board computer technology,” the Policy Advisory states. Secondly, the Policy Advisory looks at IT and its “revolutionary disruptive potential”. IT can facilitate ride-sharing, it says, empowered by smartphone apps. “No longer is car ownership a necessity when apps can readily find others travelling a similar route in either the urban or rural context. IT can also potentially revolutionise the efficiency of goods transport through finding new opportunities for load-sharing, consolidation of deliveries and promotion of back-hauling.” Thirdly, the Academy believes that transport policy deserves a complete re-think, relating sustainability to occupancy levels. “Cars at high occupancy levels are now more emissions-efficient than buses or trains at low occupancy. Public transport is therefore not necessarily more sustainable than private, and is so only at high occupancy levels, which arise mostly at peak times in the congested urban context,” states the Policy Advisory. It goes on to say that IT could potentially enable more sustainable ad-hoc off-peak transport service than scheduled low-occupancy public transport and that anonymous ‘Big Data’ on commuting and travel patterns could help optimise complementary public and private transport. The Policy Advisory finally turns its attention to the potential for greater utilisation of existing rail assets. “Commuting from the Midlands into Dublin can be optimised by utilising the Phoenix Park tunnel to provide access to the IFSC area. Commuter and intercity rail passenger numbers could be expanded by completing and opening Kishoge Station as a major park-and-ride facility,” it says. “There are also new rail freight opportunities in the context of reducing road traffic into the city. All these initiatives can help mitigate growing congestion on the M50.” The Academy gives 15 recommendations as to how it believes these four areas together could pave the way towards low-carbon transport in Ireland. It estimates that these can reduce both 2020 transport energy usage and greenhouse as emissions by over 15% below current predictions. “There’s also the very significant advantage that these combined successes can all be achieved at relatively modest overall cost to the Exchequer, while in parallel stimulating private enterprise and driving national economic growth,” it concludes. Towards Low-Carbon Transport in Ireland is the fourth in a series submitted to Government over the last two years. They have dealt with:
  • The Potential for Large Scale Electricity Exports;
  • The Future of Oil and Gas in Ireland; and
  • Achieving Ireland’s Energy and CO2 Reduction Targets.
These and associated reports on energy issues are downloadable from