Submission to the Review of Sustainable Mobility Policy

The WDC recently made a submission to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) consultation on the Review of Sustainable Mobility Policy and associated background papers.

One of the functions of the WDC is regional policy analysis.  The WDC seeks to ensure that government policy reflects the needs of, and maximises the potential of, the Western Region[1] in such areas as infrastructure, natural resources, enterprise and regional and rural development.  It also tracks the implementation of policies and recommends adjustments as appropriate.

As the Western Region is very rural[2] the WDC submission has a particular focus on the needs of, and opportunities for, more rural and peripheral areas.

The Sustainable Mobility Policy consultation was organised around a number of specific topic issues with background papers prepared by DTTAS for each of these.  In this post some of the key points made in the submission for each topic are highlighted but the full submission can be read here.

Active travel

Active travel tends to be less popular in rural areas and in smaller urban settlements.  There are a number of reasons for this, including:

  • The need to travel longer distances to employment or services
  • A lack of walking and cycling facilities
  • Motorised transport travelling at higher average speeds giving rise to concerns about personal safety
  • Greater exposure to wind and rain
  • Lack of artificial lighting meaning that many journeys are difficult in the hours of darkness
  • Finally, less congestion and more predicable travel times in rural and small urban areas also reduce the incentive to walk or cycle.

Despite these issues Active Travel options should be more available and promoted in rural and small towns so that the proportion of active journeys is increased to the benefit of both the individual travellers and the wider community.

Normalising walking and cycling as viable travel options in rural areas is important.  They shouldn’t be considered unusual, risky or the preserve of a small minority.  This normalisation will of course occur as participation increases, but also as the infrastructure for active travel is increased and the options are more visible and safer.

 

Climate Change Challenge 

Addressing the decarbonisation of transport and travel in rural regions is complex. Rural people are more reliant on car based transport, they have less available public transport and tend to travel greater distances.  Rural dwellers’ transport and travel patterns need to be central to our Sustainable Mobility Policy.

The rural nature of the Western Region has implications for how we reduce transport emissions, but the reasons we travel are also very important, both in terms of options for reducing journey numbers and types, and the distances and nature of the journeys.

The three pronged ‘Avoid, Shift, Improve’ (ASI) framework is a hierarchy that emphasises reducing journeys in the first place, achieving modal shift, and improving mode efficiencies[3] and should be used for rural transport planning.  By thinking of each of these (ASI) in relation to rural journeys we can begin to focus on workable solutions

The WDC is currently engaged in a project on the transition to a low carbon economy in the rural Western Region (under Action 160 in the Climate Action Plan) and transport is one of the key elements under consideration.

 

Congestion

The costs of congestion are significant and varied, impacting on efficiency, economics and societal and individual wellbeing. Within the Western Region the larger towns and Galway city are particularly affected. It is important that congestion is eased, both to reduce the economic and social costs being incurred, and also to ensure the Region and its growth centres can deliver on the ambitious regional growth targets set out in Project Ireland 2040.

Within the Western Region, congestion in Galway city is of most concern.  The Galway Transport Strategy has identified various sustainable mobility measures which need to be expedited. Funding from national Government must be made available to ensure speedy delivery.  There needs to be an expansion of commuter rail services on the existing Athenry-Oranmore-Galway city route. This will relieve congestion and help promote other sustainable transport (walking and cycling) within Galway city. Investment is needed to double track this line, provide passing bays in the short term and procure additional carriages.

Regional towns will need support and investment in devising and activating sustainable mobility town plans. Support from the expertise available within the NTA and local authorities should be made available.

The WDC has been active in the area of remote working (previously termed e-work and telework) for many years, researching the practice, as well as operating an e-work policy for over two decades. We have published various papers including a recent blogpost which identifies the most recent evidence which suggests that that 18% of workers declared they worked from home.  See the blogpost for more detail.  The success of initiatives variously called e-working spaces/ co-working spaces/ hubs also suggests e-working is on the increase. These can provide similar benefits to home working in reducing commuting distance and congestion.

 

Land Use Planning and Transport Planning

The integration of land use and planning is important in generating more sustainable mobility.  Many people working in congested centres, especially Dublin, have to endure long commute times. If more employment was located in regional centres then it is likely many would have shorter commute times, with much less investment and funding required to ease congested networks in the Greater Dublin Area for example.

One of the important contributory factors to the recent and current pattern of development is the focus on transport investment to and from the capital with relatively minimal investment in other inter-city routes. Some of the current congestion or ‘over development’ of Dublin is in part a legacy issue relating to the priority given to improving the radial road links (and rail links) between the provincial cities and Dublin which ensured that Dublin was the most accessible city while at the same time there were relatively very poor intraregional links between each of the other cities, stifling development within and between the other regions.

 

Regulation of Public Transport

The remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA) which confers additional responsibilities within the GDA should not be confined to the GDA but should be extended to the entire country. The particular additional responsibilities allow the NTA to more effectively deliver on the transport needs of the GDA and this overall, comprehensive role is needed throughout the country.

Given the role of the NTA in delivering the Rural Transport programme, the investment programme in regional cities, the accessibility programme, and other transport programmes, it already has a significant role and understanding of transport issues outside the GDA. What is needed is the capacity to deliver overall strategic direction so as to enhance and integrate services across the country and beyond the GDA.

The background document notes that the majority of bus and rail services are PSO routes. These are ‘financially unviable services which are provided as a public good’. In this discussion it would be useful to note that this is not unusual, that most public transport services arose Europe are in receipt of public funding. The services provide wider economic benefits which are often not quantified but are no doubt significant.

 

Public Transport in Rural Ireland

Rural areas (depending on the definition used) can include some significant towns which have different transport patterns and needs to the more sparsely populated rural areas.  It is important that these differences are recognised in planning for rural transport and that one approach is not assumed to cover all rural issues.

Most journeys are made to reach services of varying kinds.  People living in rural areas tend to be at a greater distance from services than their urban counterparts and so the journeys made tend to be longer and more car based and of course those without access to a car are particularly disadvantaged.   Greater distance to services tends to reduce options for travel and in particular, given the lack of public transport and the distance to public transport services, increases reliance on car travel in rural areas[4].  There are opportunities and challenges in providing public transport in rural areas, some of which are noted here:

  • Existing public transport like school bus services and other transport services (health) should be open to all rural dwellers, making the most of the existing services.
  • Where a service exists bus stops, signage and information  should be available including covered bus shelters (discussed more in the Active travel section of this submission)
  • Bike parking stops which is secure and dry should be provided at rail stations and key bus (discussed more in the Active travel section of this submission)
  • An Information app on availability/ timing would be useful. Sometimes it can be difficult to find information about an existing service or predict when it might arrive.
  • If a phone service is used to provide information about the transport service or to allow for demand response this needs to be staffed daily ideally from 7am to 7pm. If you cannot rely on being able to contact the service to book  or check timing the service will not be used to its potential.

 

Statistics and Trends

There seems to be a shortage of data on public transport provided by private operators.  These account for a significant proportion of scheduled services between cities and towns in the Western Region but there is little data on passenger numbers, frequency etc.  This can sometimes lead to underestimation of the use of public transport not provided by Bus Éireann or Irish Rail.

Many journeys are multi modal, and yet there is very little information on such journeys with the main mode often being the only information gathered.  Better data on multi modal journeys would allow for infrastructure and services to be planned taking it into account.  Similarly, with better understanding of the roles of different modes in different journey types, the more sustainable modes can be encouraged as elements of a journey.

 

Priorities

There has long been a focus on sustainable travel in Dublin, but less focus on other cities (e.g. Galway) and other urban centres (such as Sligo and Ennis).  Likewise in small towns it is not prioritised or is included as an add-on.  Solutions may not be well designed or not attractive to users or may not be integrated so that they are not practical for users.  Finding out what works in smaller urban centres and making good investments is important.

There is a dearth of sustainable travel options and solutions available for rural areas, and if we are to reduce the carbon intensity of rural travel there needs to be a clear focus on finding solutions in rural areas, piloting infrastructural investments in rural areas and small towns and trying novel approaches to encouraging sustainable travel.  We need to find out what works in rural areas in relation to lift sharing, public transport use and active travel so potential solutions can be developed, then tested, learned from, and put in place elsewhere.

 

The full submission from the WDC is available here.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] There are seven counties under the WDC remit Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Galway and Clare

[2] Using the CSO definition 64.7% in of the population live outside of towns of 1,500 or more. Using the definition in Ireland 2040 the National Planning Framework, 80% of people in Western Region live outside of towns of 10,000.

[3] See more discussion in the NESC paper Advancing the Low-Carbon Transition in Irish Transport

[4] Discussed more here https://wdcinsights.wordpress.com/2019/12/20/why-do-we-travel-distance-to-rural-services-and-the-need-for-rural-journeys/

Renewable heat in rural areas: what are the options?

How we heat our rural homes needs to change significantly as we move to a low carbon society.  There is an important focus on energy efficiency in our homes (read more here) and the government Climate Action Plan has set very ambitious targets for improving energy efficiency including retrofitting 500,000 buildings to a higher level of efficiency (BER B2 equivalent).  The other element necessary for reducing the carbon footprint of our homes is decarbonisation of the fuels used by switching to renewable energy which may be electrical (generated from wind, solar or in future ocean energy) or bioenergy (e.g. solid biomass, biogas or liquid biofuels).

 

Some of options for switching to renewable heating are discussed in this post. The focus is, as previously, on the existing housing stock, particularly ‘hard to treat’ homes in rural areas[1], which will be very expensive to make suitable for effective use of heat pump technologies.  There were 303,081 homes in the Western Region in 2016 and there is a significant amount of work ahead with 98% of homes likely to require energy efficiency upgrades and fuel switching to make the move to low carbon systems.

 

Options

Energy efficiency is a necessary condition for successful heat decarbonisation, but investment in a combination of energy efficiency and low-carbon heat will usually be the most cost-effective and practical solution.  As energy efficiency has been discussed in more detail here this section focuses on different heat options.

The Climate Action Plan places significant emphasis on heat pumps as replacements for high carbon heating systems (with a target of installation of 400,000 heat pumps in existing buildings by 2030).  As discussed previously 23% (65,187) of existing homes (built before 2010) in the Western Region may be suitable for heat pump installation (using the lower energy efficiency standard of HLI ≤2.3 (read more here)). This leaves 237,894 homes requiring very significant energy efficiency upgrades and major heating system change (switching from oil boilers or solid fuel) if heat pumps are to be installed.  Therefore while heat pumps will be a key technology in the decarbonisation of heat, particularly in new or more recently built homes or those which are already quite efficient, other options also need to be explored.

For the 78% of homes in the region which are not heat pump ready, switching from oil boilers and solid fuel will be both expensive and disruptive and there are particular categories of ‘hard to treat’ homes where achieving the high energy efficiency requirements needed for effective heat pump use will be difficult or prohibitively expensive.

There are a range of different heat technologies which could be deployed to move these to low carbon home heating systems. The technology used should depend on the home’s characteristics, its location, and the features of the available technologies alongside consideration of capital and lifetime costs in the specific situation.  Broadly, renewable heating technologies can be categorised as electrical or bioenergy.  In this post some of the technologies which may be suitable for rural homes in each of these categories are briefly outlined.  In considering these it not so much about what the exact technology mix should be, but how uptake can be achieved at scale and in a sensible way that makes full use of the economic potential of energy efficiency while promoting the lowest carbon heating options available.

 

Electrical Heating Systems

There are a number of electric heating solutions such as Electric Heat Pumps, Hybrid Heat Pumps and Storage Heaters as well as other electric heating sources and storage.  A brief overview of these options with a particular focus on their potential use in rural homes is given here.

Heat pumps

Heat pumps are the key technology for decarbonising rural heat.  The general term ‘Heat Pump’ includes Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP), Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHP) and Water Source Heat Pumps (which are unusual).  The SEAI has a useful guide for homeowners here.  In general for existing homes Air Source Heat Pumps are most likely to be installed.  While more efficient, the retrofitted installation of GSHP is more expensive and more disruptive than the ASHP option.

While very efficient because they operate at low temperatures, for heat pumps to work effectively and not be too expensive a high level of energy efficiency is required (see more discussion here).  They are usually used in conjunction with underfloor heating or may require larger radiators than in fossil fuel systems.  They are operated in a different way to conventional fossil fuel heating systems, needing to be on for longer periods.  An additional electric water heating source may be necessary.  Air Source Heat Pumps are however relatively small and are usually attached to an external wall.  Maintenance costs are likely to be lower than for oil central heating and they should be cheaper to operate when installed in suitable homes.

High temperature heat pumps are also being developed and they may be more suitable in less energy efficient homes but they are likely to be more expensive to operate than other heat pumps.

Hybrid heat pumps may also be a short term option.  These hybrid systems combine a heat pump with an existing fossil fuel boiler with the heat pump acting as the background heat source and the boiler used for peak demand.  While not a long term answer to decarbonisation they may have a role to play in less energy efficient homes.

Heat pump technology is well established and it is used widely in other countries so there is significant experience of their effective operation.  Nonetheless, in addition to stringent energy efficiency requirements, heat pumps are sensitive to quality of design and installation.  It is important that supply chains and skills in this technology are developed so that the experience of widespread transition to this technology is good.

 

Storage Heaters

Storage heating has long been an important electric heating technology, allowing users to make the most of cheaper ‘night rate’ electricity.  Electricity is used to heat ceramic bricks which store the heat (at night or when electricity is cheap) and release it during the day.  They can be effective but, with traditional storage heating once the stored heat was used there was no other heating option.  They could also be expensive to run.  More efficient and controllable storage heaters are becoming available; these have more options for ensuring the heat is released when required.  Some models use a fan to circulate heat better or can include an electric heater to provide additional heat when needed (though this may not be very efficient).

Storage heaters, using renewable electricity, will be an important low carbon heat option in ‘hard to treat’ homes unsuitable for heat pumps.  Although less efficient than heat pumps they are not as expensive to buy and install.  As with other renewable heating options, there are likely to be further technological developments in the next decade as global demand for low carbon heat increases.

Other electricity heating and storage

Heat can be stored in a variety of forms, most commonly as hot water, either in the traditional hot water tank, in the heat pump buffer tank or in solid heat batteries which are becoming more available (see here for an overview).   Where solar PV panels are installed, hot water, thermal or battery storage may be options for making the most of the household’s solar generation.  The electricity may also be used directly in electricity resistance heaters or in certain situations infrared heaters but unfortunately the electricity generation pattern of solar PV does not fit with heat demand (which will be higher after sunset and on days with less solar radiation) so storage will be important.

With the shift to low carbon heating options and more use of electricity for heat alongside smart opportunities to purchase electricity more cheaply at different times (such as when there is significant wind generation), there will be an increase in battery and thermal storage options (read a more detailed study of domestic heat storage and energy flexibility here).  These opportunities again highlight the importance of new developments in domestic heat and ensuring that any strategy for transitioning to low carbon heating systems is responsive to new, effective technological opportunities.

Bioenergy

Different forms of bioenergy (solid biomass, liquid biofuels and biogas) can provide renewable alternatives to electrification.  Each is likely to be suitable in different situations and over different time periods.

Solid Biomass

Biomass (usually wood) can be used as a direct replacement to existing systems, a new boiler is required but as these are high temperature heat systems (like oil and gas) there is less likely to be a requirement to change the internal pipe and radiator systems and so there is less disruption.  Biomass is available in the form of pellets, wood chip or logs.  Pellet systems can be more automated and so require less user involvement, while log boilers require filling and more frequent ash disposal but are cheaper to run.  For all biomass it is important that dry wood or pellets are used to allow the boiler to operate efficiently and to reduce particulate emissions.  Given that biomass can be a direct replacement for heating systems already in use in rural areas (biomass boilers for oil boilers and solid biomass for coal or peat), it is important that biomass options are explored as part of any domestic renewable heat strategy and supported in the transition to low carbon heat in rural homes.

None of the options for moving to renewable heat are easy, biomass boilers are more expensive to install than oil boilers, and they require more on-going maintenance by user (e.g. ash disposal) and servicer.  Concerns about the availability of consistent feedstock can affect consumer confidence and there may be worries about the potential for fluctuation in fuel costs.  As part of any strategy to decarbonise heat with biomass  the  issue of emissions and clean air must be considered, with enforcement of stove and boiler standards and quality standards (such as the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) scheme) to ensure the traceability and quality of the fuel used.

However, a clear strategy to develop local bioenergy supply chains in rural areas, education of those supplying fuel, installing and servicing boilers and using them should mean that biomass is an important option for renewable heat in rural areas and one which will bring significant employment while keeping the money households spend on heat in the local economy.

In addition to the replacement of oil central heating with biomass heating, biomass can substitute for solid fuel in systems already in use (18 % of heating in the Western Region is from peat and coal).  In general wood is the most likely replacement fuel in stoves and ranges but novel low carbon bioenergy solid fuel substitutes are being developed in Ireland.  Read more about the fuels and how they are produced here and here.

In the last decade there has been an increase in the use of wood burning stoves instead of open fires.  These are generally secondary heating sources but where wood or other solid biofuel is used instead of fossil fuel they lower the carbon intensity of heating.  This is particularly the case if they are used to heat a single room rather than putting on the central heating throughout the house.  This is a common practice in larger or less energy efficient homes where the cost of heating can be substantial.

Liquid Biofuels

There may be liquid biofuel options too.  There has been a reduction in carbon emissions from transport with the Biofuels Obligation Scheme, where a portion of the fossil fuel in petrol and diesel is replaced with a biofuels (read more here).  There may be an option to do similar in home heating oil (kerosene) as a short term measure to reduce the carbon intensity of home heating.  A recent government consultation on biofuels discussed this possibility and sought feedback on how it might work, based on the level of use and availability of suitable biofuels.  The consultation document and the responses are available here.

BioLPG is a potential option, providing an easy switch for those already using LPG as a home heating fuel (0.8%[2] of homes with central heating in the Western Region).  It has been developed substitute for fossil fuel LPG (read more here).  There is however, limited domestic production and there may be difficulties in sourcing materials to significantly expand production of BioLPG.  Additionally, there may be greater demand for use in transport where alternatives to liquid fossil fuels are more limited.

 

Biogas

As most of the rural Western Region is not on the natural gas network, there are probably fewer opportunities for using biogas as a direct home heating fuel substitute than in areas on the natural gas network (biogas can be mixed with natural gas and in the longer term could potentially replace fossil fuel natural gas).  Biogas is produced in a number of ways but Anaerobic Digestion (AD) of feedstocks such as food waste, slurry, sewage, or grass is the most important option.  The production of biogas will take place in rural areas, and depending on the site of the AD plants, there are possibilities for small scale heat networks to use it.  However, this is only likely to be possible in the longer term and will be dependent on a complex range of factors.

There are clearly bioenergy options which may form part of the transition to low carbon rural home heating alongside electrification.  All biofuels need a sustainable long-term, domestic supply, and well developed supply chains and to be compatible with air quality standards and be sourced sustainably.  Nonetheless bioenergy needs to form part of the suite of options for the low carbon transition and we need a clear policy statement on role of bioenergy in decarbonising domestic heat.

 

Conclusion

To drive a successful low carbon transition we need to be open to different heating options.  Solid biomass, liquid fuel and modern electricity storage heating are important options for decarbonising heat in rural buildings. In certain situations they may have lower installation costs or running costs than heat pumps.

We should measure their real world performance, collect information on the economics of different technologies and keep up to date with newer or developing options.  In addition to research about the best real life solutions for heating rural homes with renewable energy, we need good, robust data on actual installation and running costs, and then guidance on how best to move the ‘hard to treat’ rural home to low carbon heating so that people can make the choices most appropriate to them and to their home.

We must consider the full range of low carbon technologies, their associated performance, cost and environmental benefits.  To successfully transition to low carbon rural home heating we need to support a range of low carbon heating technologies beyond heat pumps.

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] This term is used in the very useful Scottish consultation document on low carbon heat in homes off the natural gas grid https://www.gov.scot/publications/energy-efficient-scotland-future-low-carbon-heat-gas-buildings-call-evidence/pages/6/

[2] CSO Census of Population 2016, StatBank / Profile 1 – Housing in Ireland / E1053

Changes in electricity generation and supply—some impacts for rural dwellers

As we move towards a lower carbon society one of the key trends will be increased electrification and using renewable electricity to fuel our heat and transport.  This will involve very significant changes in how we consume and are supplied with electricity in our homes.  Following the recent post on electricity use, some issues of supply, including generation, distribution and transmission, as they relate to rural dwellers, are considered in this post.

This is part of a continuing series focussing on issues for rural dwellers in relation to climate action and the move to low carbon region.  Previous posts in this series have provided an overview (for example here and here) of some of the issues for rural people in the Western Region in their transition to a low carbon society.  Posts have also covered heat in our homes and energy efficiency and retrofit , and transport,  why we travel and what we know about travel in the Western Region and our use of electricity in the home.  In these we are looking at rural dwellers, rather than the broader rural economy which would include agriculture and enterprise, and the focus of this WDC work is on the way we use energy, in its different modes, as part of our daily lives.

 

Changes expected in the electricity system

There are significant changes expected in the ways we will generate, store, transmit, distribute and use electricity in the coming decades.  Many of these will impact on rural life, providing opportunities for rural dwellers or changing the way we use energy.  The illustration below (from EirGrid’s Tomorrow’s Energy Scenarios) shows many of the areas of change and how they link with each other.  Decarbonisation will change the generation portfolio with increased renewable generation and a phase out of fossil fuel generation alongside more efficiency in how we use and transmit electricity.

 

Figure 1: The influence of decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitalisation on the future electricity system

Source: EirGrid, 2019, Tomorrow’s Energy Scenarios pg. 31

 

Decentralisation is another aspect of the change in generation with a move from fewer, large scale generators to a more dispersed system with smaller generation sites and microgeneration by homes and businesses.  Generation will often be closer to the site of consumption, sometimes at small scale, including domestic level, and storage options will become more important.  Finally the digitalisation of systems using smart technology will provide for differ control methods and consumption decisions based on price, carbon intensity and other issues important to the user.

 

Opportunities for rural dwellers- electricity generation

These changes provide opportunities for those rural dwellers who can afford it to become involved at the individual home scale, at community level and as shareholders in the commercial generation projects.

Rural areas are, and will be, the site of most electricity generation and with the move to more renewables, the location of generation will often follow the resources to areas with most wind or potential for solar generation.  This means that some rural dwellers are, and more will be, living in proximity to wind and solar farms and the infrastructure needed to transmit and distribute electricity from them.  This has, on occasion, given rise to concerns from rural dwellers and difficulties in ensuring our electricity infrastructure is built in a timely manner.  It is to be hoped that improved ways of consulting, planning and building such as EirGrid’s new strategy to 2025, new wind energy guidelines (the draft is published, consultation open to 19.02.20) and the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) will allow people living in rural areas to contribute to the planning and  development of renewable electricity generation in their areas and to benefit from the investments in their locality (opportunities in the proposed RESS is discussed in more detail below).

At a small scale there are significant opportunities for rural dwellers to become involved in microgeneration.  Installing solar panels for electricity generation or solar thermal systems for water heating are likely to be the best options but small scale hydro and wind may be installed where the conditions are good.  More information about grants from SEAI for solar electricity (PV) is available here and information about solar water heating grant is here.

The microgeneration of electricity can be for ‘self-consumption’ purposes, with the electricity generated first going to power home appliances, electric heating systems (such as heat pumps) and to charge EVs.  Electricity generated can also be stored for use later —perhaps after sunset in the case of solar— in batteries, including those in EVs or in other energy forms such as hot water and in heating systems.  Finally, excess electricity generated can be exported into the national electricity grid.  In many other places, Germany and the UK for example, the householder is paid for this electricity (there are a variety of possible mechanisms including a feed in tariff) but in Ireland this is not common policy (the exception being Electric Ireland which has a microgeneration pilot scheme for existing customers).  The Climate Action Plan, however, commits to the launch of a finalised policy and pricing support regime for micro-generation (under Action 30) which will mean householders will be paid for the electricity they produce and do not use themselves.  In future domestically generated electricity may be provided to other electricity users.  Thus many rural dwellers who live in detached, unshaded houses, and who have capital to invest, are in a good position to become involved in electricity generation.

At a community level, there are also options for rural areas (and other places) to become involved in the Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) network.  There are currently over 350 communities in the network with a target of increasing this to 1,500 in the Climate Action Plan.  As well as householders the SEC can include a range of different energy users such as homeowners, sports clubs, community centres, local businesses and churches.  Each community develops an energy use masterplan covering all aspects of energy use and resources.  The focus is not just on electricity but on increasing the efficiency and sustainability of all energy use.

In order to increase local participation in  electricity generation it is proposed that the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) will have a specific strand for projects with a majority community ownership and whose primary purpose is community benefit (environmental, economic or social) rather than  financial profit.  In addition to this option[1], every project developer will be obliged to contribute to a Community Benefit Fund at a rate of €2 per MWh every year (which could be more than €200,000 annually for a community from a 40 MW wind farm) and a community investment scheme (with a Renewable Electricity Participation offering of 5%[2]) allowing people to invest in their local project (and more broadly where it is not fully subscribed locally).  A key objective of the support scheme is to ensure more local involvement in generation projects (either community projects or as shareholders in projects developed by others) through these mechanisms.  This scheme is currently in development and awaiting EU approval so some elements may change (see here for more information) but it should provide opportunities for rural people to share the benefits of the move to greater electrification and renewable generation in rural Ireland.

 

The future: electricity distribution and transmission

The dispersed rural population means that Ireland has four times the European average of length of network per capita[3].  The electricity distribution network is the low voltage used to supply electricity to 2.3m customers, including rural households, and to connect small scale generation and microgeneration.  It is being developed to make it ready for a lower carbon energy future with the move to a ‘smart network’ (read more here).  This includes smart metering which will allow customers to become more actively involved in managing their electricity, delivering benefits for themselves and the wider system.  The phased rollout across Ireland is targeted to deliver 250,000 new meters by the end of 2020, beginning in counties Cork and Laois and Kildare from September 2019.  It is expected that from 2021 electricity supply companies will begin to offer new smart products and services which will enable households to shift some consumption to times of the day when electricity is cheaper.  Households will also be able to gain a better understanding of how and when they are consuming electricity and to manage their use, reducing consumption and in the longer term to take advantage of cheaper pricing times.

Of course, in reality, people have different capacities to engage with detailed management of their electricity consumption.  While some of this will in future be integrated into the appliances being used, it is important that pricing and electricity management structures do not significantly disadvantage those consumers using older equipment, with less money to invest in more expensive electricity appliances, or who are less able to engage with and respond to the information provided by smart meters.

The Climate Action Plan target for 70% of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2030 means that up to 10,000 megawatts of additional renewable generation, mainly from rural areas, will need to be connected to the electricity system[4].  EirGrid’s stated goal is to achieve the required increase in renewables while minimising the addition of new infrastructure, but there will have to be an increase in the large-scale infrastructure of pylons, substations and overhead wires. The way that these are rolled out across Ireland and the engagement with those living in areas affected by it will be important.  While the need to resolve the climate crisis provides an urgent rationale for investment, and the shift to renewable energy has important benefits for our society, locally, nationally and globally, it is important that the benefits of the investment and infrastructure are shared with rural areas and that there is a true participative approach to consulting, planning and building the required network.

 

Conclusion

The potential for rural householders to become involved in electricity supply was considered in this post, alongside some of the changes in how electricity will be generated and supplied across the country.  The need to act in the climate crisis and move to a low carbon Region is clear.  Greater use of renewable electricity will be an important part of that.  Rural dwellers have a role to play in this, in terms of making contribution to electricity supply, through microgeneration and involvement in community renewable electricity generation projects, or as shareholders in other renewable projects.  Rural areas are the site of most renewable generation and the infrastructure associated with it, so the rural areas where the infrastructure is located need to benefit from it, not only in terms of sharing the commitment to addressing the climate crisis, but also in terms of economic benefits and community gain and perhaps most importantly as a means of increasing employment in rural communities.

This series of posts examining the issues for rural dwellers and our region in relation to improving our energy efficiency and use of energy, forms an important part of the work of the Western Development Commission under Action 160 of the Climate Action Plan.  The next stage of this work is to bring the analysis of the different energy modes together and to give further consideration to the changes needed and the policy required so that people living in rural areas, in our region in particular, are a part of the move to the low carbon society.

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/energy/consultations/Pages/Public-Consultation-on-the-Draft-RESS-Terms-and-Conditions.aspx

[2] https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/energy/consultations/Documents/47/consultations/RESS%201%20Draft%20Terms%20and%20Conditions.pdf

[3] ESB Networks 2027 Lighting the way to a better energy future

[4] EirGrid Strategy 2020-2025, Transforming the Power System for Future Generations

What do we know about electricity consumption in rural households?

The way we use electricity in our rural homes, and the opportunities for change, are important considerations for how we to transition to low carbon living.   Unlike heat and transport, there are few significant differences between urban and rural dwellers in the type and way we use our electricity, but it is useful to consider rural household demand for, and use of, electricity and how this will change with greater electrification in the move to a low carbon society.  This post, therefore, focuses on electricity, the final of the three modes of energy use (and so emissions) associated with rural living.

As noted, energy use can be split into three modes: heat (in the built environment); transport; and electricity.  Previous posts in this series have provided an overview (for example here and here) of some of the issues for rural people in the Western Region in their transition to a low carbon society.  I have also covered heat in our homes and energy efficiency and retrofit , and transport,  why we travel and what we know about travel in the Western Region.  As we are looking at rural dwellers, rather than the broader rural economy which would include agriculture and enterprise, the focus of this WDC work is on the way we use energy, in its different modes, as part of our daily lives.

While patterns of electricity use may not differ significantly between urban and rural areas, there are differences in relation to the supply of electricity in terms of generation, distribution and transmission which all have significant rural impacts and opportunities.  These will be discussed in a future post on this topic.

Electricity use in the home

In 2018 the residential sector accounted for 30.1% of final electricity consumption, similar to that in 2005 (30.8%), with the significant difference that, in 2005, 7.2% of the electricity consumed came from renewable sources, while in 2018 it was 33.2%[1].  It is targeted to be 70% by 2030.

There is little specific information about rural electricity demand and patterns of consumption, so before considering some of the potential difference between urban and rural households, it is useful to look at what we do know about household electricity consumption.  In 2018, SEAI published Energy in the Residential Sector which gives details data for energy use in the home in 2016.

This shows that electricity accounted for 25% of Irish household final energy usage 2016 (compared to 37% from oil and 21% from gas.  Most of this energy was used in heating (as shown in Figure 1) and oil and gas are the dominant fuels for this (as was considered in a previous post).  The focus of this post is on electricity use in relation to appliances and cooking (20%). Water heating is generally considered along with space heating as much of it can be done by the central heating system.

 

Figure 1: Energy use in an average Irish home, 2016

 

SEAI, 2018, Energy in the Residential Sector

 

Between 2007 and 2014 final energy use of electricity per dwelling reduced by 16% having increased by 31% between 1990 and 2007 but more recent data[2] show an increase in residential electricity consumption between 2016 and 2018[3].

The CRU provides a figure of 4,200 kWh electricity usage per year as an average for all households.  Moneyguide Ireland estimates typical annual usage in kWh could be from 2,100 in a 1-2 bed apartment to 8,000 4-6 bedroom large house.  As rural homes tend to be larger and detached consumption is more likely to be at the higher levels.

What are we using electricity for?

The lighting and appliances which account for 17% of energy use in the home are almost all powered by electricity.  To understand what will change with a move to a low carbon household it is useful to remind ourselves about the appliances we have.

Data from the CSO Household Budget Survey (Figure 2) shows how common the different appliances were in our homes in 2015-2016.

Figure 2: Percentage of households with select household appliances 2015-2016

Source: CSO Household Budget Survey 2015-2016

 

Almost all households have a washing machine, a TV and a vacuum cleaner.  The box below gives a sense of how we use energy with these appliances with an estimate of how long it takes each appliance to use 1 unit of electricity (1kWh).  Each unit currently costs about 20c on average including VAT.

Source: Moneyguide Ireland

 

Over time the energy efficiency of our household appliances is improving (see here for discussion) which in turn should contribute to reducing energy consumption in our homes.  Lighting, in particular, has seen very significant increases in efficiency with the move away from incandescent bulbs, and new tumble dryers with heat pumps are much more efficient (though also more expensive to purchase).  However at the same time, if the number of appliances continues to increase, for example more televisions, more tumble dryers or more dishwashers, overall household consumption from appliances could increase.

 

Differences in rural and urban electric consumption.

There is little data on differences in rural and urban electricity consumption but in 2013 (the most data[4]) 31 % of customers (634,306) were classified as ‘rural domestic’ (and so pay the higher rural standing charge[5]) but rural domestic customers accounted for 34% of domestic use (2,908 GWh).

The definition of ‘rural domestic’ is assigned by ESB Networks and so there will be people living in rural areas classified as ‘urban’ customers (especially in small towns and villages), but the classification is important as those rural customers may have different issues in relation to supply, which is discussed more in the next post.

There is little information on the reasons for higher rural electricity demand (though it is something that should be explored further in future) but there are a number of likely reasons.  As seen before rural homes in the Western Region and elsewhere tend to be larger and are more likely to be detached.  Larger homes use more energy of all forms will have more lighting and more space for, and demand from, other appliances.  In contrast, however, they are less likely than urban homes (apartments in particular) to use electricity as their primary heating source.  With most rural homes not connected to the natural gas grid, electricity is more likely to be used for cooking, although bottled gas is also an important cooking fuel in rural areas.

In terms of appliances, again there is little information on the differences between urban and rural households, and such differences are likely to be more related to house size, household size and income, than to urban and rural factors.  Rural homes may also have other specific uses of electricity such as for water pumps from private wells, and for certain domestic wastewater treatment systems.

 

The future

The consideration of electricity demand and appliances here relate to current electricity consumption issues and patterns but of course significant changes in these are expected in the future with the move to greater electrification of heat and transport.  As the SEAI notes “Increasing the electrification of thermal and transport loads, much of which can be shiftable and controllable, facilitates much greater quantities of variable supply (e.g. wind / ocean energy)”.   Increases in electricity consumption from heating and vehicle charging are, however, likely to be tempered somewhat by increased energy efficiency in electricity use, in appliances and other electrically powered items alongside a reduction in distribution and transmission energy losses.

A significant move to EVs will increase domestic demand. Most EV charging will take place at home, probably overnight (or when electricity is cheap (see below)). Rural homes with off street parking are particularly well suited to this and the lack of other transport options is likely to mean, in the longer term, a higher number of EVs per rural household than urban (as is the case with cars at present).  Similarly the longer distances to be travelled will mean higher electricity consumption by rural vehicles.

The electrification of heating (including the targeted increase in the use of heat pumps) with a switch to the use of heat pumps will also increase electricity consumption, though of course it will mean lower overall household energy consumption.

Alongside these changes are likely to be developments in smart appliances and smarter charging allowing for the use of many electricity appliances to be determined by the cost of electricity at a particular time, either because of lower demand on the system (such as at night) or cheaper generation (e.g. windy days).  Increasing the electrification of domestic space and hot water heating, and personal transport will increase the use of electricity, but automating use decisions will increase the proportion of renewable electricity consumed in the home. For more discussion of this potential see SEAI’s Smart Grid Roadmap.  A more detailed discussion of potential changes in electricity demand and consumption patterns is also available in EirGrid’s Tomorrow’s Energy Scenarios.

To plan for this shift to electrification, changes which may be needed in domestic electricity connections and their capacity are being addressed under Action 174 of the Climate Action Plan.  This will involve the introduction, as required, of new urban and rural domestic connection design standards and infrastructure sizing and design standards to reflect the demand of domestic scale low-carbon technologies

Conclusion

As discussed in this post, there is little understanding of differences between urban and rural dwellers in the type and way they use their electricity.  It would be important to have more information about rural household demand for, and use of, electricity and how this will change with greater electrification in the move to a low carbon society.

There is significant future potential for electrification of heat and transport in rural areas, but it should also be remembered than many rural dwellers lack the financial resources to switch to low carbon or carbon free alternatives.  It is important that we recognise this, alongside understanding rural differences in electricity and other energy use when we are planning for a low carbon rural economy and society.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] SEAI Energy Statistics 2019 report

[2] SEAI, Energy in Ireland 2019

[3] Data for 2007-2016 has been weather corrected but not for 2016-2018 so these are not completely comparable.

[4] ESB Networks Key Statistics 2014

[5] There is a useful comparison of current rural electricity charges here http://www.moneyguideireland.com/rural-electricity-charges-compared-to-urban.html

Why do we travel? Distance to rural services and the need for rural journeys

Understanding the reasons rural dwellers travel is essential to ensuring we can take focused, effective, and fair climate action and aid a transition to low carbon rural regions. In this the second blog post examining data on travel and journeys in Western Region counties and rural areas, the need to travel to services, the distance many rural dwellers live from everyday services, and the reasons why some journeys are not made are all considered.  This post forms part of a series examining data and issues on rural travel and journeys as part of WDC work (some of which falls under Action 160[1] in the Climate Action Plan) on how we transform the Western Region to a low carbon region.  A post on the rural emissions is available here and the first in this series covering issues of rurality and transport and the reasons for travel is here.

 

Distance to services

In the previous post on transport, the importance of travel for work and education were outlined along with the other reasons we make journeys.  Travelling for work and business are clearly important, but most journeys are made to reach services of varying kinds.  People living in rural areas tend to be at a greater distance from services than their urban counterparts and so the journeys made tend to be longer and more car based (both of which will be discussed in future blogs).  Greater distance to services tends to reduce options for travel and in particular, given the lack of public transport and the distance to public transport services, increases reliance on car travel in rural areas.

This is highlighted in Figure 1 below, which compares the proportion living within 15 minutes’ walk of key services in rural areas compared with the national picture.  Indeed the National Household Travel Survey also found that 40% of all rural respondents did not live within 15 minutes of any of these services.

Figure 1: Percentage living within 15 minute walk of services, National Household Travel Survey, 2017

Source: https://www.nationaltransport.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/National_Household_Travel_Survey_2017_Report_-_December_2018.pdf

 

This can be seen more specifically at a county level (Figure 2) which shows the average distance (km) of residential dwellings to everyday services.  This higher average distance to services for rural people  means that rural dwellers are travelling further and for longer periods (discussed more in a future post) are more likely to need a car, which is the only way to access most of these services.

Figure 2: Average km distance to key everyday services for Western Region counties

Source: CSO, 2019 https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-mdsi/measuringdistancetoeverydayservicesinireland/  Statbank Table MDS02

 

The services shown in Figure 2 above are ones that may need every day access, other services such as banking, libraries and leisure services like swimming pools may be sued less often but have much higher average distances, again increasing the need for motorised transport (most likely a car).  These are shown in Figure 3.  The distance to hospital is greatest, and while some outreach services are provided, many people will need to attend appointments and on going treatment services in these hospitals.  Some transport services are available but many will, where possible or necessary, use private transport of their own or with a friend, relative or volunteer.

Figure 3: Average distance (km) to other services which may be used regularly for Western Region counties

Source: Source: CSO, 2019 https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-mdsi/measuringdistancetoeverydayservicesinireland/  Statbank Table MDS02

 

The need for car travel is partly a function of the distances to be travelled but it also relates to difficulty accessing public transport.  The average distance to a train station and a public bus stop (which in all Western Region counties is less than the average distance to a train) is shown in Figure 4 below.  For most of these counties, these distances are greater than most people are likely to be able or wish to walk, especially given the hazards of walking on many rural roads, and the probability that many of the journeys in winter would not be in daylight.

Figure 4: Average distance to a bus stop and train station in Western Region counties (km)

Source: CSO, 2019 https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-mdsi/measuringdistancetoeverydayservicesinireland/  Statbank Table MDS02 Note: Average distance to a train station is not shown for Donegal as there is no station in that county and the distance is too large for the chart (113km).

 

Even if people are to walk this distance (active travel modes in rural areas will be considered in a future post) many of these bus stops have very few services.  All counties have even greater average distances to train stations and in certain situations (e.g. for work or business and hospital appointments) travelling by train may be a preferred option.

Of course levels of service are very important. Figure 5 below shows the percentage of the population whose nearest Public Transport stop has a low service frequency.  This gives a clear indication of why so few rural journeys are by public transport (again to be discussed in a later post).

 

Figure 5: Percentage of the Population in Western Region counties whose nearest Public Transport stop has a frequency of fewer than 10 services per day.

CSO Ireland, 2019, Measuring distance to everyday services 2019 Table 2.3 (XLS 14KB)

 

People not travelling

Finally, having discussed the reason people are making journeys and some of the issues for them in rural areas, it is also interesting to examine, in as far as the data allows, the journeys not made.  The CSO’s National Travel Survey briefly examines the distribution of persons travelling and not travelling by degree of urbanisation  and found that over 77% of persons residing in rural (thinly populated) areas took a journey on the travel reference day.  This was an increase of over eight percentage points on 2014. By comparison, nearly two thirds (65.9%) of persons living in intermediate density areas and 71.1% of residents of urban (densely populated) areas made journeys on the travel reference day.  At a regional level the survey shows that in the Border region 58.4% travelled on the reference day (which was the lowest regionally) and in the West 74.1% travelled. Nationally 71.3% travelled on the reference day.

The most common reason why people did not travel on the reference day was that they had no wish or need to travel or were fully occupied with home duties – nearly two thirds of persons (62.8%) gave this as their main reason for not taking a journey. Understanding more about why people don’t travel could be important in helping us consider how we reduce people’s need to travel on some occasions as a part of the ‘Avoid, Shift, Improve’ approach to developing more sustainable transport.

 

Conclusion

This post, the second in a series on transport data and issues for rural areas and the Western Region, examines some of distance to services, access to public transport and highlights some information on journeys not made.  The next posts in this series will look at the length of journeys, travel time and the mode of transport.  The collation and analysis of the available data will allow us better understand the reasons for, and nature of, rural journeys, This is essential to design policies to reduce emissions and help us to meet our transport targets as well as developing develop more sustainable rural transport options.

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] There are eleven pieces of research and studies which are counted as ‘Steps Necessary for Delivery’ of Action 160, including the one to be carried out by the WDC “Study of transition to a low carbon economy: impacts for the rural western region”.

Rural Journeys and travel: what do we know about the Western Region?

Rural people are more reliant on car based transport, they have less available public transport and tend to travel greater distances.  Rural dwellers’ transport and travel patterns need to be central to our climate action planning. There must be detailed consideration of transport issues for smaller settlements and rural areas.  Following on from the posts relating to a move to a low carbon Western Region on energy efficiency and home heating and retrofits, in this series of blog posts what we know about journeys and transport in rural areas, and the Western Region in particular, is examined, starting with consideration of available data and concluding with a post discussing issues implications of the data.

As discussed previously the Western Region (the area under the WDC remit[1]) is very rural. Using the CSO definition 64.7% in of the population live outside of towns of 1,500 or more[2]. Using the definition in Ireland 2040 the National Planning Framework, 80% of people in Western Region live outside of towns of 10,000. Thus WDC work has a particular focus on the needs of, and opportunities for, more rural and peripheral areas.

One of the key elements of the transition to a low carbon rural region will be emissions reduction from transport in the Western Region.  This will require the three pronged policy and personal approach in line with the ‘Avoid, Shift, Improve’ (ASI) framework, a hierarchy that emphasises reducing journeys in the first place, achieving modal shift, and improving mode efficiencies[3].

Addressing transport emissions is a key element of the Climate Action Plan where there is specific focus on the need to address rural issues under the transport heading (e.g. Action 94 to review public and sustainable transport policy and to publish a public consultation on public/sustainable transport policy, including rural transport).  This recognises that rural transport needs are different. Under the Plan, Action 100 also addresses the need for a vision for low carbon rural transport and commits to develop a new rural transport strategy and to conduct a comprehensive assessment of rural travel demand, and methodologies for determining it.

Addressing transport and travel in rural regions is complex. In order to understand what needs to be done to reduce emissions from rural travel, we need to know what our travel patterns actually are.  These WDC Insights posts will set out, in detail, some of population issues and some of the available baseline information on journeys and transport in rural areas and the Western Region.  Knowing the current situation means that we can better understand what we need to do to make the transition possible and ways to make it happen.

In doing this we must recognise that transport is not an end in itself; it is a means for accessing employment, and other services and amenities that contribute to healthy and fulfilling lives[4]. Understanding transport as a social practice is essential to promoting positive behaviour change.

 

Why are rural areas different?-

In the first part of this post I look at some of the reasons that transport in rural areas is different and why reducing emission in rural areas may be difficult, these reasons relate to population, population density, distance to services and to employment and amenities.  Understanding patterns of population growth and decline and population density, provide the background for much of the discussion of transport and journeys.  It is important to recognise the characteristics of these before considering why we travel.

The Rural Population

Looking at population, some of the issues are immediately brought into focus.  In Ireland as a whole, the Census of Population, 2016, just over a third (37%) of the population lived in rural areas (that is outside towns of 1,500).  In contrast, in the Western Region showed the opposite pattern and 65% live in rural areas (Figure 1).  This is a marginal decline on 2011 (when it was 66%).

The rural population of the seven counties varies from almost 90% in Leitrim (where there is only one urban centre over 1,500) to 54% in Galway which of course includes the largest settlement of Galway City.  After Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal and Mayo are the most rural of the Western Region counties.  Sligo and Clare, along with Galway are slightly less rural.  It should be noted that Galway county (i.e. excluding the city) is one of the most rural with almost 78% of the population living in rural areas.

Figure 1: Percentage of Population living in rural areas in the Western Region and State.

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2008: Population Percentage in the Aggregate Town Areas and Aggregate Rural Areas

Each county, and the Western Region itself (64.7%), has a significantly higher proportion of people living in rural areas than for the State as a whole (37%).

Population Density

Density is another key indicator of rurality and it certainly is important in considering the provision of services.  In Ireland as a whole the population density is 70 people per square kilometre and in the more rural Western Region it is just under 32 people per km2 .  Again there is considerable variation by county and as can be seen in Figure 2 below, this largely mirrors the rurality of each of the seven counties.

Figure 2: Population Density in the Western Region and State (persons per sq km)

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2013: Population Density and Area Size 2011 to 2016

Galway (county and city) has the highest population density (42 people per square km) and Leitrim has the lowest with just over 20 people per square kilometre.

Population in Towns

The population of towns across is also important, and looking at towns across the Western Region the weak urban structure of the region is evident.  Galway is the significant city, with a population of 79,934 in 2016.  Only five towns have a population of more than 10,000 people (Ennis, Letterkenny, Sligo, Castlebar and Ballina), and there are a further seven towns with a population of more than 5,000 giving a total of 13 towns including Galway in that size category (5,000+) in the Western Region.  Another 27 towns in the Western Region have a population of more than 1,500 and which are therefore categorised as urban.  This give a total of 42 ‘urban’ settlements, that is,  places with a population of over 1,500 in the 2016 Census of Population.

While these urban populations are significant in the context of the region, it should be remembered that more than half a million people (535,953) are living in rural areas (in small settlements and open countryside) in the Region.  The CSO also provides population details of a further 201 settlements in the Region, (the smallest of these is Malin, population 92) and 103,936 people live in these.  A total of 440,888 (53%) therefore live in more open countryside (and in even smaller settlements).

Rural Categorisation

The CSO has recently published Urban and Rural Life in Ireland which includes a six way classification of urban and rural areas in, from urban to remote areas and these are shown in Figure 3 below. Most of the Western Region, with the exception of the area around Galway city, falls into the most rural classifications ‘Rural areas with moderate urban influence’ and ‘Highly rural/remote areas’.  These areas are likely to be the most difficult to address transport emissions, with few public transport options, longer distances to services and often lower household incomes than some of the other rural categories.

Figure 3: Population distribution by six way urban/rural classification using Census 2016 results

Source: CSO Ireland, 2019. To view the interactive version of the below map, click here. The map can be used to find the urban and rural six-way classification assigned to a particular address (searchable by Eircode or address).

Travel patterns- why we travel

The rural nature of the Western Region has implications for how we reduce transport emissions, but the reasons we travel are also very important, both in terms of options for reducing journey numbers and types, and the distances and nature of the journeys.  In this section the reasons for journeys are considered, before   we travel to it is now useful to consider why we travel and some of the factors influencing the journeys made in rural areas.

Understanding why we travel and the journeys we make will allow us to better understand how we might influence a change in travel patterns in order to reduce emissions form transport.  The CSO’s National Travel Survey (2016) gives a breakdown of the reasons for journeys made (Figure 4).  The most significant reason for a journey was for work at almost 30% but shopping (almost 22%) and companion and escort journeys (15%) were also quite significant.

Figure 4:  Distribution of journeys by purpose, 2016

Source: CSO Ireland, 2017, National Travel Survey

The importance of these reasons has been quite stable over other years when the survey has been conducted, but the increased importance of work journeys since 2012 and 2013 is clear (see Table 1), and consistent with the growth in the economy and employment between 2013 and 2016.  This link between journey numbers and economic growth has proved difficult to address.

Table 1 Percentage distribution of journeys by purpose, 2013, 2014 and 2016

Purpose 2013 2014 2016
% % %
Work 24.8 25.0 29.3
Education 4.6 4.5 4.0
Shopping 22.7 24.0 21.9
To eat or drink 1.9 1.8 2.4
Visit family / friends 10.2 10.8 8.6
Entertainment / leisure / sports 9.8 9.9 9.2
Personal business 6.4 5.2 5.7
Companion / escort journey 15.2 13.8 15.2
Other 4.2 5.1 3.8
All purposes 100.0 100.0 100.0

Source: CSO Ireland, 2017,  National Travel Survey 2016 Table 1.3 (XLS 11KB)

These reasons for travel are also broken down by the type of area where the journeys are made (See Figure 5).  In this the CSO used three categories[5], thinly populated area refers to rural areas; Intermediate density area refers to towns and suburbs; densely populated area refers to cities, urban centres and urban areas.  Journeys to ‘visit family and friends’, ‘companion and escort’ journeys and ‘entertainment’ are more important in rural areas than in the other categories.  This may reflect the age profile of rural regions, with more older people (and often an higher child population) but with fewer in the working age categories (read more about that here).

Figure 5: Distribution of journeys by Purpose and Degree of Urbanisation

Source: CSO Ireland, 2017, National Travel Survey

The National Transport Authority conducted a National Household Travel Survey in 2017[6] and reasons for trips are analysed across six different urban and rural categories (National, Rural and ‘Other Urban’ (population between 1,500-10,000)) are shown in Figure 6 below.

Again, travel for work or business is the most important category across all three areas, with travel for education significantly more important in this survey (23% nationally), than in the CSO’s National Travel Survey (4% in 2016). Educaiton related travel was highest in rural areas (24%) again, perhaps relating to the relatively lower numbers in the working age cohort.

Figure 6: Reasons for Trips, National Household Travel Survey, 2017

Source: https://www.nationaltransport.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/National_Household_Travel_Survey_2017_Report_-_December_2018.pdf

Analysis by AIRO for the WDC[7] examined labour catchments for the 42 towns in the Western Region (towns of over 1,500) adding to our understanding of journey patterns and the important of smaller urban areas in employment in the region (read more about it on the blog here or here and download the 2018 report here).  This map of local labour catchments (Figure 7) gives a good overview of travel patterns for employment purposes.

Figure 7: Labour Catchments of 42 Towns in the Western Region, 2016

Source: WDC, 2018, Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region: A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments

This ties in with the CSO findings, from the recently released Urban and Rural Life in Ireland,  that more than three in four workers from rural areas do not work in a City.  Of all the workers who lived in ‘Cities’ in 2016, 54.7% worked in Dublin City and suburbs while 28.3% worked in the remainder of the country. For workers living in ‘Satellite urban towns’, 60.9% had their place of work in the remainder of the country while 29.8% worked in Dublin City and suburbs.  It also found that most workers who lived in areas other than ‘Cities’ did not work in a city. More than 90% of workers who lived in ‘Independent urban towns’, ‘Rural areas with moderate urban influence’ and ‘Highly rural/remote areas’ worked outside of the five cities while 76.1% of workers from ‘rural areas with high urban influence’ and 60.9% of workers in ‘Satellite urban towns’ did not work in a City.

Working from Home

Interestingly, that same publication (Urban and Rural Life in Ireland) also showed that one in ten workers in ‘Highly rural/remote areas’ work mainly from home (Figure 8)There were 94,955 people aged 15 and over at work in 2016 who worked mainly from home, 4.8% of the total 1,970,728 people at work. The proportion of people working mainly from home was highest at 9.8% in ‘Highly rural/remote areas’, compared to the lowest percentage of 2.3% in ‘Cities’. Twice as many people worked from home in the three rural areas (63,728) than in the three urban area types (31,227).  This relates in part to the number of farmers in these areas.

Figure 8: Proportion of persons who were working from home by area type, 2011, 2016

Source: CSO, 2019, Urban and Rural Life in Ireland, 2019 Table 8.2 The chart is also here

The pattern of home working in the Western Region and other patterns of remote and e working have been discussed in more detail on the blog.  Increasing the prevalence of working from home, and in alternative work places which require shorter journeys, is likely to be an important part of policy to reduce emissions from transport in rural areas in the future (and will be discussed more in a later blog).

Conclusion

This post, the first in a series on transport statistics for rural areas and the Western Region, examines the issues of population and population density, and well as the reason for travel in rural areas and Western Region counties.  The next posts in this series will look at distance to services as a driver of transport demand.  The collation and examination of this data will allow us better understand the reasons for and nature of rural journeys, which is in itself essential to design policies to reduce emissions and help us to meet our transport targets as well as developing develop more sustainable rural transport options.

While I will continue this analysis for the WDC as part of our work on rural areas transition to low carbon regions, I hope that the data highlighted in these posts will also be of use to others considering this complex issue.

 

Helen McHenry

[1] There are seven counties in the Western Region: Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.

[2] CSO, Census of Population, 2016

[3] See more discussion in the NESC paper Advancing the Low-Carbon Transition in Irish Transport

[4] See the Climate Challenge paper (no.3) of the public consultation  on sustainable mobility policy here

[5] This classification is created from an aggregation of population density estimates derived from the Census of Population.

[6] The Household Travel Survey was also conducted in 2012 and is expected to be carried out every five years.

[7]  https://www.wdc.ie/docs/TraveltoWork_LabourCatchments_WesternRegion2016_FullDoc.pdf

Public Consultation on Transport and Sustainable Mobility Policy

Introduction

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has opened a public consultation to review Ireland’s sustainable mobility (active travel and public transport) policy. Sustainable Mobility refers to active travel, such as walking and cycling and public transport (e.g. bus, rail, tram). This review is part of a commitment in the Programme for Government to review public transport policy “to ensure services are sustainable into the future and are meeting the needs of a modern economy”.

This public consultation is an opportunity to give stakeholders, interested parties and the public the opportunity to contribute to the development of a Sustainable Mobility Policy. The public consultation will commence on 14th November 2019 and conclude on 24th January 2020, see here for details.

Transport accounts for 20% of Ireland’s greenhouse gases[1]. The population is forecast to grow by around 1 million people by 2040 with over 600,000 extra jobs forecast (Project Ireland 2040). Almost €7 billion of taxpayer funds have been spent on sustainable mobility services and infrastructure since 2009. How we travel is important and the plans we make for future travel will have significant impacts in the context of funding, climate change and quality of life.

The Department of Transport have published a range of background papers examining various different aspects of sustainable mobility and setting out questions designed to help develop the new policy framework, see here for links to background papers.

Background Papers

Paper 1 focuses on transport accessibility and asks what are the priorities to improve public transport accessibility for people with disabilities, elderly or those with mobility difficulties.

As Ireland is an ageing society we need to consider mobility challenges more.

The paper on Active Travel (Paper 2) examines issues in relation to promoting more active travel such as walking and cycling.

Paper 3 examines the Climate Change Challenge and asks which sustainable mobility emissions mitigation measures, that are not currently employed should be considered? It also asks how mitigation measures should be prioritised, for example on the basis of least cost, carbon, abatement potential, disruptive effects, co-benefit potential etc.?

Paper 4 examines congestion and asks what are the opportunities and challenges around reducing traffic congestion in our cities and other urban areas? A recent report by the Department of Transport see here. estimated the annual value of time lost to road users due to aggravated congestion in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), at €358 million in 2012 and is forecasted to rise to €2.08 billion per year in 2033. These estimated costs do not include other costs, for example, increased fuel consumption and other vehicle operating costs, or increases in vehicle emissions or the impacts of congestion on journey quality.

Additional demand management measures should be considered for example congestion charging/road pricing.

The WDC also believes that demand management measures such as an increase in e-working/remote working should be supported, see the discussion in a recent blog post here. Increased e-working can also help significantly reduce emissions. The Government have just published the Remote Work in Ireland report which supports greater flexible working practice and can be read here.

Paper 5 examines Greener Buses and asks what challenges and issues need to be considered in relation to transitioning alternative fuel options for the urban bus fleet?

Paper 8 focus on public transport in Rural Ireland which of particular concern to the WDC. The Western Region is a very rural region: 80% of the population live in areas outside of towns of 10,000, compared to 49.8% for the State. Lower population densities may mean that a different model of public transport provision should apply compared to that in cities.

There are also papers examining Regulation (Paper 8), Funding (Paper 9) and a Review of actions on the Smarter Travel Policy.

The Department are inviting comment on any and all these issues and this is an opportunity to influence the preparation of Transport policy over the next decade at least. The public consultation will conclude on 24th January 2020 and all the detail is available here.

 

 

Deirdre Frost

[1] Climate Action Plan 2019

 

 

 

Energy efficient homes in the Western Region: some thoughts on retrofit.

The government target of improving home energy efficiency through the retrofitting of 500,000 buildings by 2030 (see the Climate Action Plan 2019) is ambitious.  It is therefore useful to look at the retrofits in more depth, and consider the target and issues from a rural Western Region perspective.

While new buildings have significant potential to incorporate the reduction or elimination of energy consumption (particularly for space heating and cooling purposes) into their design, a focus on existing buildings is essential.  The longevity of buildings and the building stock (typically 50–100 years) means that for a very long time ahead the majority of the building stock will be from before the current era of low energy regulation[1].  In the last blog on this topic  the baseline information on homes in the Western Region was set out.  In this post some of the issues associated with retrofitting these homes is considered in more detail.

Energy efficiency in Western Region homes

As discussed in detail in my previous post, recent improvement in building standards mean that it is generally assumed that homes built after 2010 will require least upgrading and therefore the focus for retrofitting is likely to be on homes built before 2011.  In the Western Region, the Census of population 2016 shows that there are 280,949 homes built before 2011, that is 93% of all the homes in the Western Region (excluding ‘not stated’).  Currently, only 4% of homes in the region, with a BER, have a rating of B2 and higher (the target energy rating in the Climate Action Plan is BER B2 or cost optimal or carbon equivalent).  If these BER ratings already recorded are translated to the Western Region housing stock, it means that 269,711 homes would need to be retrofitted.  The challenge to improve energy efficiency is, therefore, very significant. It is likely, however,  that the BER ratings we have are not reflective of the general housing stock, as they are mainly comprised of houses which are to be sold and new homes and therefore may show higher BER levels than would be the case if all homes had been rated.  On the other hand, some homes have been improved and while some of them will have a new BER rating (included in figures above), others will be better than recorded.

What is retrofit?

Before considering the targets and how they might be applied in the Western Region it is useful to understand what ‘retrofit’ means in an energy efficiency context.  Retrofits are often referred to as ‘shallow’ or ‘deep’.

The SEAI provides the following information on Deep Retrofit:

The Deep retrofit of a home means carrying out multiple energy upgrades all at once to achieve a BER of A-rating.

  • Firstly, you will need to reduce the level of heat loss so that you keep heat in the home for longer. This involves some or all of the following: wall insulation, roof insulation, floor insulation, window upgrades.
  • The next step is to look at an efficient renewable heating system to support the transition away from fossil fuels. The typical heating system installed on a Deep Retrofit Pilot Project is an air-source heat pump.
  • It also includes mechanical ventilation to maintain good indoor air quality.
  • Other renewable energy technologies such as solar water heating panels and solar photovoltaic panels may be appropriate for your home.

In contrast, shallow retrofit may include cavity wall insulation, window replacement, attic insulation, draught proofing, energy efficient lighting and improved heating controls, and these may be done one at a time and not as part of a complete plan.

The government target to bring 500,000 to a BER B2 equivalent does not specify the kind of retrofit required, but it is likely to be closer to a ‘deep’ retrofit approach (although not to an A rating but to a B2), particularly as a proposal is to be developed to phase out grants for ‘shallow’ energy efficiency measures by 2022 (Action 52, Climate Action Plan, Annex of Actions (718KB).

How much will the homeowner save?

Improving the energy efficiency of the home through retrofit should provide energy savings,  the larger the move up the BER scale the larger the savings.  The SEAI has provided an indication of energy costs for different house types at different BER ratings ((see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1: SEAI Indicative annual CO2 emissions and running costs for different rating bands for space and water heating

Source: https://www.seai.ie/publications/Your-Guide-to-Building-Energy-Rating.pdf This table gives estimated annual fuel cost and CO2 emissions on the basis of typical occupancy and heating the entire dwelling to a comfortable level.  The Tables above are based on fuel and electricity factors from February 2014.

According to this table, an owner of an F rated ‘3 Bed Semi Detached House’ could save €2,400 in energy costs a year, while an F rated ‘Large House’ could save €7,200 annually following retrofit.  It should be noted, however, in relation to potential savings, the energy cost estimates usually refer to heating a whole house to ‘a comfortable level’.  It has been found that people living in less efficient homes may not be heating the house to that level, while those in more efficient, upgraded homes may not be achieving the savings estimated as “inhabitants’ everyday practices and norms of comfort are often changed in parallel to retrofitting of the home”.  In other words they may heat their home more (see reference in footnote 1 for more discussion).  Thus the savings are not likely to be as much as predicted.

How much does a deep retrofit it cost?

It is difficult to find generalised cost estimates for deep retrofitting given the significant variation among house types, size and the upgrades required, but it is usually agreed that it is very expensive.

Information from the SEAI pilot deep retrofitting programme found that for 250 homes that completed deep retrofits under SEAI’s pilot programme the average cost to upgrade a home from an average BER rating of F rating to an average A3 rating was €48,417.

Information from Superhomes (a retrofit service providing a ‘one stop shop’ for energy retrofit projects) again highlights the variation in costs depending on the extent of the retrofit.  It notes that the lowest cost for a SuperHomes retrofit in 2019 was €35,000. A grant of €11, 000 was secured, bringing the net cost down to €24,000. This retrofit included a heatpump, wall & attic insulation, external door replacement, airtightness measures and a demand control ventilation system.

SuperHomes suggests that the typical cost of a full scale deep retrofit to BER A3 standard in 2019 was between €50,000 and €70,000 (before grants). These retrofits would include a heatpump, wall and attic insulation, external doors, airtightness measures and a demand control ventilation system. They may also include a mix of external wall insulation, floor insulation, Solar PV and full window replacement. SuperHomes applied for and secured grant funding of a minimum of 35% of costs on all these retrofits. As a result the net spend was typically between €30, 000 and €45,000.

The government retrofit target is a B2 energy rating, rather than the A3 ratings being achieved above.  Thus the cost should be somewhat less, though it is not clear by how much as I have not been able to find data on costs to achieve a B2 rating.  Overall costs of achieving the target will, of course, depend on the type and size of houses which are being retrofitted.  This is turn will partially depend on the incentives available.

However, it should be noted that the cost of the retrofit is very significant, and when compared to the value of homes in Western Region it is clear that it would be equivalent to a large proportion of the home value.  While in more expensive areas the cost of the upgrade may account for less than 10% of the home’s value, it could be double that in counties like Leitrim and Roscommon where house prices are lower (see Figure 2[2]).

Figure 2: Median House price by county 12 months to August 2019

 

Source: CSO residential Property Price index https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-rppi/residentialpropertypriceindexaugust2019/additionalindicators/

There is little data available as yet on the impact of the BER rating on the value of a house though it would be expected to become more important as the carbon tax increases. The level of increase in a home’s value following a retrofit will also become clearer over time.

Conclusion

it is not clear what mechanisms will be used to achieve the government retrofitting target, but it is clear that it is ambitious.  The cost of retrofits, the means of paying for such energy efficiency, the incentives which will be provided have not yet been fixed.

There are a huge range of issues to be considered when deciding how we should best reduce our emissions for the built environment.  My interest is in rural dwellings in particular and this post has explored only a few of the issues relating to retrofit.  I hope to continue this exploration over the coming months so that the ways rural dwellers in the Western Region can participate in our move to a low carbon region can be better understood.

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] Kirsten Gram-Hanssen, 2014, Retrofitting owner-occupied housing: remember the people.  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09613218.2014.911572

 

[2] While the price of homes sold in the last 12 months in each country is not the same as the average value of homes in the county it gives a useful indication of relative values.

Low carbon transition for Western Region homes- what’s the base line?

One of the most important elements of the transition to a low carbon rural region will be emissions reduction from homes in the Western Region by improving energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy sources for heating in particular (as discussed in the last blog post on this topic the focus of current WDC work on the transition is on rural dwellers).  The government, in the Climate Action Plan 2019, has set very ambitious targets for improving energy efficiency (retrofitting 500,000 buildings to a much higher level of efficiency (BER B2 or cost optimal or carbon equivalent) and moving to more renewable heat sources (with a target to install 600,000 heat pumps  (of which 400,000 will be in existing buildings).  In order to understand how what needs to be done to meet these targets we need to know where we are starting from.  This post sets out, in detail, some of the baseline information on homes in the Western Region.  Knowing the current situation means that we can better understand what we need to do to make the transition possible and ways to make it happen.

Homes in the Western Region

To understand the challenge it is first useful to look at the number and types of homes in the seven county Western Region.  According to Census 2016 there were 303,081 ‘permanent housing units’, that is all permanent residents excluding caravans, mobile homes and other temporary structures, (these accounted for 987 residences in 2016).  While newer homes have been built since the Census in 2016, the numbers are relatively small and those homes are not the focus of the efficiency and energy upgrades envisaged in the Climate Action Plan, so the Census remains the key data source.  The Western Region, in 2016, accounted for 17.98% of the permanent homes in Ireland which is in line with the share of the population living in the region (17.4%).

Galway county had the largest number of homes (62,729) and when combined with Galway city (as it is in some data discussed below) it has significantly more homes (91,556) than other Western Region counties.  Leitrim, the smallest Western Region county, had 12,404 homes (see Figure 1 below).

 

Figure 1: Permanent homes by county in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1002

 

The types of homes in the Region are also important, given that different types have different levels of energy efficiency and can have different options for switching to more renewable energy sources. For example, terraced houses will have lower heat loss than detached houses while flats and apartments are more suited to a central or district heating systems than more dispersed housing.  Figure 2 shows the significance of different housing types in the region and state.

 

Figure 2: Type of permanent housing units in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1002

Clearly, with the exception of Galway city, detached houses are the most common housing type in the region (64% of all homes in the region compared to 37% of homes in the rest of the state).  As would be expected the more rural counties have an even higher proportion of detached homes (Leitrim 73%, Roscommon 74%).  Counties with a higher urban population (Clare 59%, Sligo 57%) have a smaller proportion of detached homes but all are still above the state average (42%.  As noted above this has implications for the types of changes we need to make in relation to efficiency and heat sources.

The age of homes in the region is also important to planning the transition.  Figure 3 shows when homes in the different counties were built.  Significant house building in all counties between 2001 and 2010 is very apparent, with more than 30% of homes in Galway County (32%), Leitrim (35%), Roscommon (31%) and Donegal (31%) built in that period, while all other Western Region counties also have a higher proportion of homes built in that period than the rest of the state (25%).  Homes built in the different periods have different requirements for energy efficiency upgrades, and will face different costs and challenges.  The oldest homes will often face the most significant challenges, though it should also be recognised that they are not necessarily the least efficient.  More than a quarter of homes in Leitrim (26%) were built before 1960 while only 17% of those in Donegal were. In Galway City only 10% of homes were built before 1960.

 

Figure 3: Age of homes in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1005

 

While there will be different requirements for transforming homes from different eras, given the more recent improvement in building standards it is generally assumed that homes built  after 2010 will require least upgrading and therefore the focus of the SEAI grants, for example for heat pump  installation, is on homes built before 2011.  Figure 4 shows the proportions of homes in the Western Region built before and after 2011 (excluding those not stated).  In most counties, and in the State, only 2% of homes were built from 2011 onward (the exceptions are Galway City (1%) and Galway County (3%).

Figure 4: Number of Homes built pre and post 2011 in the Western Region, 2016

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1005

 

Evidently there is a very significant amount of work ahead with almost 98% of homes likely to require energy efficiency upgrades and fuel switching to complete a move to a low carbon economy. There are of course some pre 2011 exceptions such as the small number of homes which were built to higher efficiency standards than required or which have completed the process already).

 

Efficiency of Homes: Building Energy ratings (BER)

A Building Energy Rating (BER) certificate indicates a building’s energy performance rates on a scale of A-G. A-rated homes are the most energy efficient and G-rated are the least energy efficient.  It is calculated through energy use for space and hot water heating, ventilation, and lighting.  Figure 5 shows the different energy ratings given to buildings covered in each county up to 2018.  In all counties more than 90% of homes achieve a B3 rating or less.  While this data is very useful, in most areas fewer than a third of homes (often considerably fewer) have had a BER assessment[1] and so it is not clear if the homes which have been assessed accurately reflect the housing stock.

Figure 5: Percentage of rated buildings in each BER class for Western Region counties, 2019

Source: CSO, 2019, Domestic Building Energy Rating Table EBA02

 

The Climate Action Plan focus is on improving homes to a BER rating of at least B2 (or cost optimal or carbon equivalent.  Currently in the Western Region Galway and Mayo perform best with 5% of homes with a BER rating achieving B2 while only 2% in Leitrim and Roscommon do so.

The SEAI has recently produced an interactive map of BER ratings and with detailed BER data mapped at small area level.  Figure 6 below is a snapshot the national map where green DEDs have a median rating of B and above (there are not many on the map), while yellow shows DEDs with A median C rating, orange  is D, Red is E, Dark red, F and purple G.  The map should be viewed with caution as many DEDs have fewer than 20% of their homes with a BER rating and so the data may be skewed.  It is, however, really useful for planning and can be viewed in full here.

 

Figure 6: Map of median BER ratings by ED

 

Source: SEAI https://www.seai.ie/technologies/seai-maps/ber-map/

 

Fuels used in home heating.

While much of the discussion above has related to improving energy efficiency in homes, the other element necessary for reducing the carbon foot print of our homes is the fuel used for heating.  We will need to decarbonise the fuels used, by switching to renewable energy which may be electrical (generated from wind, solar or, in future, ocean energy), or bioenergy (e.g. wood energy, biogas from anaerobic digestion or a liquid biofuel).

The highest priorities for change are buildings heated using the most carbon intensive fuels (oil, coal and peat) and homes in the Western Region are particularly reliant on these, being rural, with little access to the natural gas grid and often using very traditional forms of central heating.  Figure 7 below shows the percentage use of oil and solid fuels (excluding wood energy) used in homes in the Western Region (from Census 2016).  In the Western Region as a whole more than four fifths of homes use oil, coal or peat for central heating, compared with 44% of homes in the rest of the state.  In Donegal 9 out of 10 homes use these fuels, with Mayo and Roscommon almost as high (each 87%).  Galway city has the lowest use of these fuels in the region (57%) and even that is higher than in the rest of the state.  Clearly homes in Western Region counties need to be prioritised in the switch to low carbon heating.

Figure 7: Oil and solid fuel as a percentage of central heating fuels in Western Region counties

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1053

 

While much of the discussion on home heat (e.g. in the Climate Action Plan) has focussed on heat pump installation, it may be that homes heated using coal and peat might find a switch to other renewable solid biomass such as wood energy to be more appropriate, especially in older homes which will need very significant retrofitting and may have particular ventilation requirements.  The focus of heat pump installation may therefore be on homes heated using oil.  Figure 8 below shows the percentage of homes in Region which use oil for central heating.

 

Figure 8: Oil as a percentage of central heating fuels in Western Region counties

Source: CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1053

Almost 60% of homes in the Western Region use oil for central heating compared to 36% in the rest of the state.  Again Galway city is lowest (at 50%) with the highest oil use in Leitrim (65%) and Donegal (64%).  A fifth of homes in Galway city (21%) are using electricity for heating which reflects the higher number of flats and apartments there (21%).  Roscommon has relatively low oil use (55%) because of the very significant use of peat (27%) to fuel central heating.  Homes in Galway county also commonly use peat (23%).

 

Heat Pump ready?

While it is important to change the type of energy used to heat homes in the Region, as discussed above  energy efficiency and good insulation are the first steps which need to be taken with a ‘fabric first’ approach advocated by SEAI for home energy improvement.  This is particularly important when heat pumps are to be installed as the home must be well insulated in order for heat pumps to work properly.

SEAI have used Heat Loss Indicator (HLI) data from BER certifications (see more here) to assess how many homes built prior to 2010 are ready to have heat pumps installed.  A prerequisite for heat pump installation is a HLI of ≤ 2 W/K/m2 and the percentage of homes ready for heat pump installation in the Western Region is shown in Figure 9 below.  Interestingly, this is a similar percentage of homes[2] in the Western Region (11.7%) as in the Rest of the State (12.8%).  Sligo is the Western Region county with the highest proportion of heat pump ready homes (15.6%) followed by Galway (14.0%) and Leitrim (12.6%).  Roscommon (8.6%) and Mayo (9.3%) have the lowest number of homes ready for heat pumps.

Figure 9: Heat Pump ready homes (HLI ≤2) by Western Region county

Source: https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableEnergyAut/key-learnings-from-the-seai-heat-pump-programme and CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1002. Own calculations.

 

The HLI of ≤ 2 is the most stringent measure of heat pump readiness, but given the very significant target for heat pump installation in the Climate Action Plan (400,000 in existing homes by 2030) if it also useful to look at other homes which are close to this level of readiness.  SEAI have, therefore, also estimated the number of homes which are heat pump ready using a HLI of ≤2.3 with certain caveats (see this for the detail of these).

 

Using this measure there are a considerably higher proportion of heat pump ready homes (see Figure 10) in the Western Region (23.2%)[3] which is higher than the rest of the State (22.5%).  Again Sligo has the most heat pump ready homes (27.8%) with Galway (23.9%), Leitrim (24.1%) and Clare 23.9% all higher than the Region average.  The lowest proportion of homes ready for a heat pump is in Roscommon (18%) and Mayo (19.4%).

 

Figure 10: Heat Pump ready homes (HLI ≤2.3) by Western Region county

Source: https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableEnergyAut/key-learnings-from-the-seai-heat-pump-programme and CSO Census of Population, Profile 1: Housing in Ireland Table E1002. Own calculations.

 

Although only 23% of homes are currently heat pump ready in the Western Region this still amounts to 65,187 homes in total in the region (and 351,295 in total for the state).  Prioritising these homes would make a very significant start on meeting the target in the Climate Action Plan.

Conclusion

In this post I have given some of the baseline information necessary for planning the transformation of our Western Region homes to more energy efficient, low carbon dwellings.  Clearly the scale of the transformation required is enormous and some of the issues which need to be addressed and actions which might be put in place will be discussed in my next post.

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] BERs are usually done because a home is to be sold and a BER cert is required for this.

[2] Heat pump ready homes by county is shown as a percentage of permanent homes built before 2011 from CSO Census of Population 2016.

[3] This figure includes all those homes with a HLI of ≤2.0

Reprioritising and Updating Transport Policy and Investment

Recently, there have been a few publications which focus on the need to reprioritise policy and investment across various aspects of Irish transport infrastructure and services.

The Irish Exporters Association (IEA) has published a paper entitled Building a Transport infrastructure that fosters Irish exports to the world, see here. The IEA, whose focus is on supporting Irish exporters and ensuring efficient international transport access, sets out policies and recommendations which they believe are necessary to more effectively support exporters across Ireland. From a Western Region context, a few of these are particularly relevant.

Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC)

The IEA believes that the Atlantic Economic Corridor needs to be supported through improved connectivity from the North West to the South West of Ireland. The IEA sees the AEC and Ireland’s regions as an important counterbalance to Dublin and the transport infrastructure needs to more effectively support Ireland’s agri-food and Life Sciences industries along with all other industrial clusters located there.

Rail Freight development

The IEA are asking for policy supports to move more freight by rail, noting the relatively tiny share of traffic carried by rail in Ireland (0.9%) compared to an EU average of 17% in 2016. The Western Region is the source of most rail freight in Ireland. The IEA is asking for supports such as reduced track access charges for rail freight, which is a practice common across Europe. This is discussed further in a report commissioned by the WDC and available here. Apart from the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (rail freight can reduce the carbon footprint by 70%), the other significant driver is the huge degree of congestion which generates significant costs, highlighted in a report discussed further below.

Ports

The IEA believe that with Dublin Port operating at or near capacity, further upgrading and diversifying Ireland’s export gateways must be a strategic Government priority. This need is compounded by Brexit. The IEA believe the Government should further develop Ireland’s regional seaports to provide exporters across Ireland with viable, cost efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin port. They welcome the proposed redevelopment of both Rosslare and Galway Ports.

Airports and air cargo

Similar to the concentration of traffic through Dublin Port, the IEA recognises the concentration of air cargo through Dublin airport. It believes that cost-efficient, viable and well-connected alternatives should be promoted in the West and South to facilitate high-frequency aviation connections to key European and global cargo and business hubs and ensure sustainable economic growth nationally.

This echoes the views expressed by the WDC in its submission to the recent consultation on the Regional Airports Programme, arguing for the need to update transport policy generally and aviation policy specifically to reflect the overarching objectives of Project Ireland 2040, see the WDC Submission here.

The CSO Aviation statistics, see here, highlight the trend of the increasing concentration of air passengers travelling through Dublin airport compared to other airports. For example, in 2014, Dublin accounted for 81.9% of all passengers (total = 26.5 million), compared to 85.6% in 2018 (Total = 36.6 million). This represents an increase of 9.6 million passengers in 4 years with Dublin Airport accounting for 95.2% of total passenger growth in that period. So along with a significant increase in total air passenger numbers, there is an ever-increasing share travelling through Dublin airport. The WDC considers that with Dublin Airport now operating at or near capacity, and capacity available at other airports such as Ireland West Airport Knock and Shannon, cost-efficient and accessible alternatives to Dublin should be utilised and promoted.

Level of concentration unusual in a European context

Just last week a report by Copenhagen Economics entitled Assessment of aviation policy as a driver of economic development in the West and Mid West of Ireland, see here noted the particularly high concentration of passenger traffic in Dublin relative to the other airports in Ireland which is especially high when compared to other small, open economies in Northern Europe. According to this report, the concentration of Dublin’s share of passenger traffic in Ireland represents the second highest, behind only Schiphol in the Netherlands. However, while Dublin’s share continues to increase that of Schiphol has been decreasing over time. This is partly due to Dutch aviation policy, which sets maximum aircraft movements through Schiphol, and actively encourages flights via other national airports in the Netherlands. Dutch aviation policy recognises that airport development is viewed as being part of regional development outlined in the Randstad 2040 Strategic Agenda. The report calls for initiatives to improve Shannon Airport’s global connectivity. A better capacity utilisation at Shannon Airport (in addition to other airports outside of the Capital) will enhance the growth capacity of the West and Mid West regions, and at the same time alleviate pressure on Dublin without requiring costly infrastructure investments.

Budget 2020

It seems Government maybe listening and in Budget 2020, a marketing support fund was announced, comprising approximately €10 million over three years to Tourism Ireland which is to be made available to support the regional airports outside Dublin, including Shannon Airport see here. This is a small but welcome development but more policy supports will be needed to ensure that other airports can grow their numbers and their share of national traffic which in turn will help them to become self-sustaining.

The Costs of Congestion

Finally, recent reports by the Department of Transport indicate that rebalancing traffic away from an increasingly congested Greater Dublin Area (GDA), will not only support the goals and objectives of Project Ireland 2040 but will also make financial and economic sense! The research measured the costs of congestion, specifically around the Greater Dublin Area (GDA) see here. Some of the congestion in the GDA and the M50 are contributed to by passengers and freight originating in the catchments of ports and airports in the West and South such as Shannon and Knock but who currently travel through the GDA to access services at Dublin Port and airport.

The reports estimate the annual value of time lost to road users due to aggravated congestion in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA), as compared to where the road network is performing well. The cost of time lost due to aggravated congestion is measured at €358 million in 2012 and is forecasted to rise to €2.08 billion per year in 2033.

These estimated costs do not include other costs, for example, increased fuel consumption and other vehicle operating costs, or increases in vehicle emissions or the impacts of congestion on journey quality. Additionally, congestion also has an impact on the wider economy, and Ireland’s competitiveness. All else equal, high levels of congestion will reduce the attractiveness of a location to work and live in, as well as directly affecting the cost of transporting goods and services. These costs are not captured by this study, and as such, the total costs of aggravated congestion are likely to be higher than those estimated in this report.

Conclusions

It is clear that the benefits of supporting better transport infrastructure and services across ports, airports, the rail and road network outside of the GDA and specifically along the Western Region and Atlantic Economic Corridor makes sense from an economic, social and financial perspective. Implementation of Government policy already set out in Project Ireland 2040 through the NDP and the updating of various sectoral policies needs to take place to give effect to these policies and to a better Ireland for all its regions.

 

Deirdre Frost