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Making the ‘Just Transition’ more sustainable for rural Ireland

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Rural homes can achieve B1 BER for €11,000 by switching from oil to renewable ready gas boilers, combined with moderate building fabric upgrades

New report calls on Government to embrace lower carbon and renewable energy options like LPG and BioLPG to deliver a cost-effective ‘Just Transition’ to decarbonisation for rural Ireland

Rural homes and businesses urgently require a wider suite of accessible, affordable, and fairer options to help them transition away from oil and other high carbon fossil-based fuels. That’s according to Liquid Gas Ireland (LGI) which launched a new report, Liquid Gas - Making the ‘Just Transition’ more sustainable for rural Ireland’.

The report demonstrates how lower carbon and renewable fuels like liquid gas (LPG) and BioLPG, offer significant potential to assist rural Ireland to decarbonise. Calling for a mixed technology approach to support rural dwellings to reduce energy carbon emissions, LGI is encouraging Government to:

  • Support renewable ready gas boilers, which can be combined with moderate fabric upgrades to a home, to deliver a BER uplift to B1.
  • Integrate LPG, BioLPG and rDME (renewable dimethyl ether) into Government policy, ensuring a wider choice of viable options for homes and businesses located off the natural gas grid.
  • Develop a regulatory environment which supports the use and availability of renewable liquid gases to meet the energy needs of rural Ireland.
  • Invest in research and development for advanced feedstock options to support the future production of BioLPG and rDME in Ireland.

Commenting, LGI Policy Director, Philip Hannon said: “Rural homeowners should have the same variety of options to decarbonise as those based in urban settings. This currently is not the case, as the Government continues to pursue its ‘one size fits all’ approach which prioritises the installation of heat pumps. This is straightjacketing the options available to rural dwellers, the majority of whom traditionally rely on high carbon fossil fuels like oil for energy.

“Rural communities must not be left behind on Ireland’s decarbonisation journey, due to a lack of energy transition options available to them. There is significant scope to widen the focus beyond the narrow set of options being put forward when it comes to decarbonising energy supply. A mixed technology approach to decarbonisation must embrace the use of lower carbon and renewable fuel options like LPG, BioLPG, and in time rDME. Supporting a switch from oil to a renewable ready gas boiler, combined with moderate fabric upgrades to a home, will open a more progressive step-by-step ‘Just Transition’ to decarbonisation for rural consumers.”

The Government has set a target to retrofit 500,000 homes to achieve a Building Energy Rating (BER) of B2 or higher by the end of 2030. It also aims to install 400,000 heat pumps in existing premises to replace older, less efficient heating systems during the same period.

LGI commissioned research into the alternative pathways available to a typical Irish property archetype using kerosene oil to transition to a BER B2 or higher. The findings showed that LPG and BioLPG can offer a more cost-competitive pathway compared with heat pumps in achieving an improved energy efficiency rating, whilst also delivering low annual carbon emissions.

The research looked at a D1 BER rated one-story bungalow operating on kerosene oil with pre-existing baseline renovations complete including roof insulation, floor insulation and double glazing. It showed that a BER uplift to B1 was achievable by switching to a renewable ready gas boiler with additional fabric energy efficiency upgrades. This included cavity wall insulation and adding room thermostat temperature controls. The combined upfront cost was €11,331 before individual SEAI energy grants are applied.

Mr Hannon added: “While the environmental impact of heat pumps is obvious, a sole focus on this alone is too blunt an instrument and is not a good fit for rural Ireland. For many homeowners, the installation of a heat pump is simply too expensive an option, potentially costing more than €60,000 where a deep retrofit is required. For more older rural properties, it’s just practically unviable.

“Critically we’ve shown how renewable ready gas boilers offer an alternative long-term pathway to decarbonisation at a much lower upfront cost. This approach would support the gradual introduction of renewable LPG, including BioLPG and rDME, into the fuel mix over time. Rural homes and businesses should have access to tangible options like these, to reduce carbon footprint without expensive deep retrofitting or significant changes to the property’s heating system.”

Mr Hannon concluded: “We strongly recommend that the Government should pursue a mixed technology approach which includes new heating solutions such as heat pumps. However, a mixed technology approach must also embrace alternative solutions such as renewable ready gas boilers, which are future proofed for renewable liquid gas solutions. Some consumers will gravitate towards new technologies based on their preferences and building types, whilst others will find the convenience of using drop-in renewable fuels, like BioLPG, in their existing heating system, to be more appealing. A basket of solutions is required to deliver a ‘Just Transition’ to heat decarbonisation in the next 30 years.”

 

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