Skip to content
Return to news section

14/05/2024 Sustainability  | Latest News

Navigating Ireland's Energy Transition: Providing viable solutions for rural consumers

With 46% of all households still reliant on high carbon fuels including oil, peat, and coal for heating, Duncan Osborne, CEO of Calor, discusses the dependence on such fuels in rural off-grid areas, and the barriers presented to consumers during the retrofitting process.

In a recent report, Liquid Gas Ireland (LGI) analysed census data and identified a national increase in the number of homes using oil since 2016. This puts the key objectives in both the National Residential Retrofit and Climate Action Plans at risk. It is also contributing to escalating carbon emissions precisely when we should be prioritising lower carbon and renewable alternatives.

“There are a multitude of challenges and problems in the current approach for Ireland to meet its climate target to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero by 2050. Part of the issue is affordability and the difficulties of a full retrofit for homeowners. At Calor, we recognise that there is a need for alternative lower carbon option for rural, off-grid homes and businesses within the energy transition”, explains Duncan Osborne.

The recent LGI report outlines the wide-ranging challenges of Ireland's housing landscape to the following:

Number of households using oil: While the overall national proportion of households using these higher carbon fuels has decreased slightly from 2016, the total number of housing units using oil has increased 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.

Age of the Irish housing stock: 65% of all houses were built before 2001, according to CSO figures analysed by LGI. This equates to just over 1.2 million homes, which are typically less energy efficient and more costly to heat. This aging infrastructure poses a substantial challenge and often requires more extensive and costly interventions.

Demographic factors: For many homeowners, a full retrofit is inconvenient and unfeasible. Over 188,000 households in Ireland are occupied with individuals aged 65 and older living alone, where 46% use oil for heating, 5% use peat, and 5% depend on coal. A full deep retrofit often requires the homeowner to vacate the property for the building works to be complete. This is not a viable option for everyone.

Cost: Finally, according to SEAI figures, the average cost of a deep energy retrofit range between €25,000 to €70,000, excluding grants. Many people are priced out of the option.

“The current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach doesn’t suffice, and Calor understands that consumers and homeowners must be given choice. The limitations for people of the transition from solid fuels straight to heat pumps without considering the economic constraints they face, has resulted in low uptake,” continues Osborne.

“Heat pump technology will play an important role in decarbonising Ireland’s housing stock, however, it’s clear that a wider suite of options is needed. At Calor, we believe a ‘mixed technology’ approach that supports the use of lower carbon liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) together with a renewable liquid gas – such as BioLPG - would help achieve this”.

Recognising the need for innovation, Calor was the first company to bring a renewable liquid gas to rural homeowners to market in Ireland in 2018 and Calor are continuing to explore the potential of other lower carbon and renewable alternative fuels and partnerships.

Our goal is not merely to shift customers from one high carbon fuel to another, but to empower individuals and businesses to take the first steps on a journey towards fully renewable energy sources. By providing a range of choices, including a renewable ready gas boiler – we are ensuring homeowners and businesses have an option available to them, when a full retrofit isn’t viable or feasible”, explains Osborne.

As we navigate the complexities of Ireland's energy transition, Calor support the approach of policymakers, industry leaders, and communities working together to identify solutions that are not only environmentally sound but also socially and economically viable. We need energy solutions that address the unique challenges faced by homeowners, particularly in rural areas. In doing so, we can ensure that no one is left behind in our collective pursuit of a sustainable and resilient future for Ireland.

Learn more about how to switch to Calor for your home here.