Call to ‘ramp up’ energy efficiency

ONE of the country’s leading energy engineering experts has called on the Government and policymakers to “ramp up” our policy on improving energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in homes and transport.

UCC senior lecturer Brian O Gallachóir is part of a team at the university who have been developing an energy systems model which can tell scientists what kind of least-cost energy systems Ireland needs to put in place if we are to achieve the EU targets of reducing energy emissions by 20% by 2020.

Preliminary results from the model, called Irish TIMES, are indicating that emissions savings are best made in the housing sector and in transport and that we need to “at least redouble our efforts” at policy level.

According to Mr O Gallachóir, who was speaking at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Climate Change Conference in Dublin, we need to urgently move away from oil-fired heating systems to biomass- based systems.

“Yes, refit schemes and other incentive-based schemes are in place to improve energy efficiency and the use of renewables in these sectors but these are still far too off course if we want to achieve a 20% reduction. We really need to ramp up these sectors and we need to invest more in developing technologies to improve efficiencies in the housing sector and the transport sector; to strike when the iron is hot. Just look at the type of research being done on making biofuel by the likes of Dr Jerry Murphy in UCC who is making it from grass.”

Next year, scientific journal Nature will publish a new journal, Nature Climate Change. Its chief editor Dr Olive Heffernan was in Dublin yesterday for the conference where she spoke about the challenges climate change scientists face when dealing with the media.

“There is an element of uncertainty surrounding climate change. Scientists are being asked by the media and politicians to give answers to questions that are highly uncertain and this is posing challenges,” she said.

Dr Heffernan said Governments and politicians increasingly ask for “predictions” over the next 10, 15 and 20 years, “that will allow them to plan ahead”.

“Asking climate scientists for predictions for 20 years ahead can’t be done with reliability as there are still too many unknowns,” she said.


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