The Irish Academy of Engineering has called for the Government to rebalance its energy policy between now and 2020, if it is to avoid penalties for failing to achieve EU energy targets.

The Academy has submitted a policy advisory to Government on how best to achieve Ireland’s ‘20-20-20’ commitments regarding final energy consumption and CO2 emissions reduction.

According to the policy advisory, entitled Achieving Ireland’s Energy and CO2 Reduction Targets – An Alternative Approach, the over-riding focus to date has been on the reduction target for the energy traded sector (ETS). Some €8 billion has been invested in supply-side projects, mainly in renewable energy and in upgrading of electricity transmission.

“It is now probable that the required energy and CO2 savings are being achieved in this sector as a result of investment and the unfortunate impacts of recession,” said the Academy. It recommends that the Government instead focus its efforts on the residential, commercial, non-ETS industrial and public service sectors.

According to the policy advisory, key policy goals should be:

  • Rebalancing of investment from supply-side renewable and associated transmission, to a focus on demand-side energy and CO2 reduction;
  • Provision of better practical advice to householders on the merits of the various retrofitting insulation and ventilation options available;
  • Training of contractors in retrofitting skills and independent compliance checking of this work;
  • Incentivising conversion in urban areas with access to the gas grid of oil-fired central heating to gas-fired systems in over 300,000 urban dwellings;
  • Incentivising the retro-fitting installation of highly efficient heat pumps in over 400,000 rural dwellings;
  • Replacement of older generation electrical storage heaters in over 140,000 dwellings with new higher-capacity, cost-effective units (SETS); and
  • Demand-side load management of heat pumps and SETS through smart metering.

The Academy also recommends an “aggressive programme of shallow retrofitting”, supported by the planned Better Energy Financing programme and possibly tax incentives. The Government should incentivise energy suppliers in development of gas network and installation of heat pumps and SETS, according to the policy advisory, it said.

“[We must] prioritise energy efficiency in the commercial, industrial and public sectors, particularly HSE buildings; while reallocating resources to incentivising shorter pay-back period (less than five years) projects, particularly in the commercial and industrial sectors,” the Academy concluded.

This publication is the latest in a series of reports by the Academy since 2006 on energy policy issues in Ireland. See for more details.