Rural homes ‘must not be left behind’ on decarbonisation journey


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Rural communities must not be left behind on Ireland’s decarbonisation journey due to a lack of energy transition options available to them, policy director at Liquid Gas Ireland (LGI), Philip Hannon has said.

In its report ‘Making The ‘Just Transition’ More Sustainable For Rural Ireland’ published today (Wednesday, January 25), LGI calls on the government to embrace options like Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and BioLPG.

Rural homeowners currently don’t have the same variety of options to decarbonise as those based in urban settings, as the government continues to prioritise the installation of heat pumps, Hannon said.

Over two million houses and apartments account for Ireland’s total housing stock, however just over 700,000 homes and businesses are connected to the national gas grid.

A total of 65% of properties located off the gas grid rely on oil for home heating, while others rely on high-carbon traditional fuels like coal and turf, LGI said.

Rural homes

Research commissioned by LGI has shown that rural homes can achieve a B1 Building Energy Rating (BER) for €11,000 by switching from oil to renewable ready gas boilers, combined with moderate building fabric upgrades.

The research looked at a D1 BER rated one-story bungalow operating on kerosene oil with pre-existing baseline renovations completed 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, including cavity wall insulation and adding room thermostat temperature controls.

The combined upfront cost was €11,331 before individual Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) energy grants are applied, according to LGI.

LPG and BioLPG

LPG is a liquified hydrocarbon gas that is supplied in a bulk tank or cylinder, and can reach areas not connected to the national gas grid or centralised district heating systems.

LPG combustion emits 33% less carbon dioxide (CO2) than coal, 11% less than kerosene heating oil, and emits almost no black carbon and very low levels of air and particulate pollutant emissions, LGI said.

BioLPG – which is exempt from carbon tax – is a chemically indistinct but renewable version of LPG made from sustainable feedstocks, such as plant and animal waste materials, vegetable oils and biogas.

Compared to fossil fuels, BioLPG reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50% and up to 90%. LPG and BioLPG can be used in different sectors, including for space and water heating, and power generation in homes and agriculture.

Mixed-technology approach

A mixed-technology approach to decarbonisation must embrace the use of lower carbon and renewable fuel options like LPG, BioLPG, and, in time, rDME, which is a sustainable liquid gas made from renewable and recycled carbon.

Producing rDME – which can reduce GHG emissions by more than 80% – from cow manure is especially attractive as it prevents its high methane content being directly released to the atmosphere, according to LGI.

rDME can also be blended with LPG or BioLPG and used in existing infrastructure, making it a more flexible and affordable option for homeowners and businesses in off gas grid areas, LGI said.

L-R: LGI policy director, Philip Hannon; Fianna Fáil TD for Laois-Offaly, Barry Cowen; Agriland editor, Stella Meehan; managing director at Flogas Ireland, John Rooney; senior research officer (energy economics) at the ESRI, Muireann Lynch; and CEO of Calor Gas, Duncan Osborne

Feedstock, mostly from food and animal waste, is an essential ingredient of renewable gas fuel in particular BioLPG and rDME, and there is great potential to develop those in Ireland, Hannon said.

LPG or BioLPG and heat pumps can run independently or alongside each other, however installing a renewable ready gas boiler only requires relatively minor retrofitting, he added.

Calling for a mixed-technology approach to support rural dwellings to reduce energy carbon emissions, LGI is encouraging the 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.

“We [LGI] 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.

“A basket of solutions is required to deliver a ‘Just Transition’ to heat decarbonisation in the next 30 years,” Hannon said.

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