46% of Irish households still reliant on high carbon fuels for home heating – Liquid Gas Ireland
Liquid gas industry calls for a ‘mixed technology’ approach to the decarbonisation of rural homes as census data shows national increase in homes using oil since 2016
Ireland’s move away from high carbon fuels is lagging significantly with the number of homes using oil for home heating increasing, combined with continued reliance on solid fuels. That’s according to a new report published by Liquid Gas Ireland, examining national trends in home heating energy sources based on CSO Census data from 2011 – 2022.
‘The role of liquid gas in providing accessible lower carbon heating for Irish homes’ reveals how 46% of all Irish households currently rely on high carbon fuels including oil, peat, and coal. As the representative body for companies operating in the LPG and BioLPG industry, LGI argues these trends put key objectives of the National Residential Retrofit and Climate Action Plans at serious risk.
Key findings from LGI’s analysis of Census data include:
- The total number of households using oil for home heating has increased since 2016 by 28,173 to 714,177. Consequently, there are now more houses in Ireland which rely on oil for central heating than there were in 2011.
- 4% of households continue to use peat, while 3% rely on coal.
- 188,981 households are occupied by a person aged 65 years and older living alone. Of this group, 86,057 (46%) rely on oil for central heating, 9,818 (5%) use peat, and 9,587 (5%) rely on coal.
- Only 39% of Ireland’s housing stock – 827,634 homes – had a valid energy efficiency (BER) rating at the end of 2022 and less than 20% had ratings of B2 or above.
- Several parts of the county show a particular high reliance on peat for home heating with Offaly (27%), Roscommon (20%) and Galway County (18%) ranking highest.
- Of the 63,000 plus homes using coal, households in Donegal (11%) and Wexford (11%) are the most prevalent users.
- The average age of Ireland’s housing stock presents another challenge to achieving the Government’s retrofitting targets, with 65% of all houses built before 2001. This equates to just over 1.2 million homes, which are typically less energy efficient and more costly to heat.
A large majority of the households still using high carbon fuels are located outside major urban centres, in areas off the natural gas grid and in older building stock. In many circumstances, switching to an electric heat pump system is not logistically viable or is prohibitively expensive, leaving homeowners with limited alternative options to decarbonise.
Commenting on the report findings, LGI Policy Director Philip Hannon, said: "It’s clear that a wider suite of options is urgently required to accelerate the decarbonisation of homes by 2030. Both lower carbon LPG, renewable BioLPG and, in time, rDME, can and are playing a key role in helping rural Irish homes meet their energy needs while simultaneously lowering carbon emissions. By adopting a mixed technology approach that embraces lower carbon and renewable fuels, the Government can expand more accessible alternatives to the 46% of homes currently using high carbon fuels. This would deliver cleaner air and lower emissions in rural areas in line with our 2050 net zero targets.
“Rural communities should be offered the technology choices that meet their unique needs through secure, clean, and efficient lower-carbon fuels. LGI strongly argues that a ‘mixed technology’ approach that supports the use of lower carbon liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and renewable liquid gas (BioLPG / rDME) through the installation of renewable ready gas boilers, as well as heat pump technology, would help achieve this.”
Empowering older homeowners to play their role in a ‘Just Transition’ to decarbonisation
Mr Hannon added: “Older homeowners represent a large cross-section of society. A large majority of Ireland’s lowest BER rated homes are occupied by older people, many of whom are on low incomes, rely on a single income stream or have limited savings. This presents a significant cost barrier when considering decarbonising their heating systems through retrofitting and heat pump installation. Furthermore, many people are put off by the intrusive and time-consuming nature of a deep retrofit, with concerns that the process could prove to be very disruptive. For much of this group currently using high carbon fuels, the heat pump solution simply isn’t an affordable option.
“This is where embracing a mixed technology approach can provide a ‘Just Transition’ to decarbonisation for a wider representation of society. Smaller, more targeted improvements may be a more suitable and practical option that allows older members of society engage in Ireland’s decarbonisation journey. Lower carbon, cleaner LPG and renewable BioLPG have an important role to play here as part of a mix of lower carbon energy options.”
Concluding on the question of Ireland’s ageing housing stock, Mr Hannon said: “The average age of Ireland’s housing stock presents another ongoing challenge to achieving the Government’s retrofitting targets, with 65% of all houses built before 2001. This equates to just over 1.2 million homes, which are typically less energy efficient and more costly to heat. For a heat pump system to work efficiently in these older properties, there is a high probability that a deep retrofit of the building will be required which can be prohibitively expensive, leaving homeowners with limited alternative options to decarbonise.
“As clean burning fuels with low levels of air and particulate pollutant emissions, lower carbon LPG and renewable BioLPG offer alternative heating options for households that want to switch from high carbon solid fuels. To reach ambitious climate action targets, the Government must acknowledge the role of liquid gas in providing accessible lower carbon heating for Irish homes”.