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Report Shows District Energy A Heat Option for Two Thirds of Population

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13 June 2024

Minister Eamon Ryan Launches Report Showing District Energy A Heat Option for Two Thirds of Population

Call for significant state investment to kick-start the sector

Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan today launched new reports from the Irish District Energy Association (IrDEA). The reports show that district energy is the most economically viable low carbon heating option for 64% of the Irish population.

The reports also compare the rollout of the technology in six European countries, using this as the basis for recommendations on policies needed to deliver district energy to Irish consumers quickly and at scale. Recommendations include consumer protection measures, and rules on planning and licensing, among others.

District energy networks distribute water, which has been heated at a local energy centre, to buildings through a network of insulated underground pipes eliminating the need for fossil fuels and individual boilers. The benefits include improved energy security, efficiency savings, affordability, better air quality and employment opportunities.

According to IrDEA, the reports make the case for significant state investment to kick-start the sector, which has been tasked with delivering enough heat for 200,000 homes and 2,500 public buildings by 2030, which equates to 10% of building heat demand.

Though well proven in other countries, district energy is not yet common in Ireland. Less than 1% of building heat demand is currently met this way, most commonly through communal schemes. According to the reports launched by Minister Ryan, this is the most economical way of meeting the heat demand of 67% of buildings across Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Eamon Ryan said: “The government is committed to accelerating building heat decarbonisation. District energy is a proven technology, with millions of customers across Europe and beyond, and it can play a key role in improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions in Ireland. That is why we have committed to clear Climate Action Plan targets to deliver up to 2.7 terawatt hours (TWh) of district energy capacity by 2030. I am encouraged to note that this research from IrDEA aligns with the broader policy direction for district heating and I welcome the support of the industry for the Government’s decarbonisation programme.”

Irish District Energy Association CEO, Yvonne Murphy said: “Around 70% of heat demand in countries like Denmark and Sweden is met with district energy right now; Europe-wide, 30 million households and 70 million people rely on district energy. It is a well proven technology that is available right now for deployment in Ireland. There has been a growing commitment by government to using district energy as a key part of its heat dearbonisation strategy, which has been incredibly encouraging for the sector. But we need solid action now to get moving in time to reach our 2030 targets.

Today, IrDEA is launching this research to set out a roadmap for delivering district energy to the almost two thirds of Ireland’s population for whom it would be the most affordable low-carbon heating option. Our key ask today is upfront investment of €1billion in state subsidies to help make that happen.”

David Connolly, Chairperson, and founder of IrDEA added, “Two decades ago, widespread generation of wind-powered electricity seemed far-fetched to many. Now, after a concerted effort, it’s a natural part of our energy supply chain. The same can happen with district heating. The system can use any source of energy including renewable electricity or surplus heat from industry or cooling processes, which is a real game changer as we reduce our reliance on imported oil and gas.

The key barrier we face as a sector now is the lack of a mechanism to draw down government funding to help finance the rollout of projects. We’re optimistic that if the financing barrier is addressed quickly, we could start to see projects materialise in the next 12 to 24 months. According to our research, an investment of around €1billion in the next couple of years could unlock the potential of the sector to deliver affordable, low-carbon heat to consumers across Ireland.

The Irish District Energy Association is a trade organisation that supports and promotes the growth of the district heating and cooling sector in Ireland. The not-for-profit company has members from across the public, private and academic sectors.


For more information about district energy and to read the roadmap visit here.

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