Use of electric cars ‘must be accelerated’ to meet renewable energy targets

One in five cars sold here needs to be electric by 2020 if Ireland is to hit its renewable energy targets and avoid fines of up to €130m.

A new report from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) outlined how major action is required for Ireland if it is to achieve its commitments. Under binding EU targets, 16% of final energy use must be from renewable sources. This is broken down into 10% for transport, 12% for heat, and 10% for electricity.

Currently, Ireland is just over halfway towards meeting its 2020 renewable energy target, with 8.6% of gross final consumption derived from renewables in 2014.

The SEAI report highlights that, while 40,000 homes and 550 businesses are currently using some form of renewable heat technologies, this level needs to increase sevenfold in order to hit the 2020 targets.

A total of 125 wind turbines (generating between 250MW and 300MW) also need to be built every year.

The report estimates that between 440m and 500m litres of biofuel will be required in order for Ireland to hit its targets. In 2014, just 167 million litres of biofuels were used for transport.

The roll-out of electric vehicles must be “greatly accelerated” to the point where, within five years, electric cars must account for 20% of all new cars sold in Ireland.

Last year, electric cars made up just 0.23% of new car sales, with a total of just 562 vehicles sold. This figure needs to hit 50,000 by 2020, the report notes.

The SEAI said the benefits associated with reducing emissions were clear and included the creation of “thousands of new jobs”, reducing dependence on €750m of imported energy and the avoidance of fines of between €65m and €130m, should Ireland miss its targets. Head of low carbon technologies with SEAI Dr Eimear Cotter said meeting our energy targets should be seen as a “huge economic and societal opportunity for the country” that is too good to let pass.

“The report highlights that while 40,000 homes and 550 businesses are already using some form of renewable heat technologies, this level needs to increase sevenfold.”

“The scale of the challenge is equally evident in the transport sector. The use of biofuels added to traditional transport fuels needs to treble, and new electric vehicle registrations need to grow from less than 1% of new car sales to 20% within the next five years,” she said.

Dr Cotter pointed out that Ireland had made “substantial progress”, but she said continued action across all of society was required for Ireland’s energy system to move onto a low-carbon pathway.

Reacting to the report, Friends of the Earth director Oisín Coghlan said the targets were achievable, but political will was lacking.

“The SEAI proposals are eminently sensible, but they are challenging, mostly because of the lack of action until now. The missing ingredient is political will. It was missing during the election campaign and there’s little sign of it yet in the talks on government formation,” he said.

Mr Coghlan said it would be irresponsible for any government to form without focusing on the importance of improving our emissions record.

“Back in 2007, the parties made the mistake of forming a government without focusing on the over-heating economy. It would be equally irresponsible now to form a government without focusing on the over-heating planet.

“The electorate may not be focused on climate action right now, but they won’t thank our political class if they sleepwalk us into billions of euros worth of fines for missing our targets, especially when the investment to achieve the targets would also give us warmer homes and cleaner air and create tens of thousands of jobs,” he said.

The SEAI report was published to coincide with its Energy Show (April 6 and 7). Up to 4,000 energy experts, business owners, and professionals from all sectors will attend the event in the RDS to learn about the latest energy-saving technologies.

A lot done ...

Ireland has already achieved energy efficiency savings which equate to about half of the country’s 2020 energy efficiency target.

Some 300,000 homes, as well as 3,500 businesses and public-sector bodies have implemented energy efficiency measures that are saving them an estimated €700m annually.

In 2014, 8.6% of gross final consumption derived from renewables in 2014.

As well as economic benefits and the creation of thousands of jobs, hitting our targets means avoiding fines of anywhere between €65m million and €130m per percentage shortfall on the overall binding target.

... more to do

The SEAI report said that approximately 125 wind turbines need to be built every year (generating between 250 MW and 300 MW)

Around 75,000 homes and businesses will need to be upgraded for improved energy efficiency every year between now and 2020, if Ireland is to achieve the 2020 energy efficiency target.

Electric vehicles will have to become more mainstream, to the point where within five years, electric cars must account for 20% of all new cars sold in Ireland.

In 2015, electric cars accounted for 0.23% of new car sales, comprising a total of 562 vehicles sold that year.


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