District heating: The future for decarbonising Irish housing stock

The way in which we heat our homes will see the most radical change as Ireland strives to improve its climate performance, writes SSE Enterprise’s Giles Newton

This article originally appeared in Ireland’s Housing Magazine.

Giles Newton, Heat Networks Business Development Manager for UK & Ireland.

Climate change is having a profound effect on the world we live in, but how this impacts our day to day lives and how we operate our businesses can often seem more distant. This is likely to change in the immediate future. Earlier this year news turned away from Brexit to cover a series of climate protests by the ‘extinction rebellion movement’, the resulting rhetoric leading the UK to become the first parliament to declare an “environmental and climate emergency”. The UK parliament’s influential Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released a report encouraging stricter emissions targets and a recommendation to achieve ‘net-zero’ by 2050, which the UK is likely to commit to achieving.

Ireland quickly followed, becoming the second country in the world, after the UK, to declare a climate emergency. The Chair of the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action said the move was “an important statement” ahead of action to come in the form of the All-of-Government Climate Action Plan and the submission by year’s end to the European Commission of the Irish Government’s National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030.

Change is happening now, with updates in policy and funds for strategic infrastructure projects allocated through the Climate Action Fund (CAF). We are going to see fundamental alterations in our operational models through the advent of climate focussed regulation and policy.

Notable differences will start to be seen in the new-build housing market. Energy strategies and stricter carbon targets will become a planning necessity. Building standards will be upgraded and home buyers will look more closely at the carbon credentials of a new build property, expecting that it should not only reduce reliance on gas and oil but also prove to be cost effective to heat.

Nowhere will the changes be seen more radically than in the way we heat our homes. Heat is the largest producer of greenhouse gases in Ireland and is often considered the greatest challenge faced in the attempt to achieve net zero economy-wide emissions by 2050, and a provision for a 2030 emissions target, consistent with the emissions reduction pathway to the 2050 target. While the UK intends to ban gas fired heating in new homes from 2025, Ireland’s reliance on oil and gas, as well as solid fuel, has long hamstrung its energy policy. What technology will Ireland’s new housing stock rely on to heat its homes and businesses?

The answer will almost certainly involve the implementation of district heating across the majority of towns and cities. New build developments will be required to replace gas and electric heating with heat networks as an essential requirement to meet development carbon targets under planning. Ireland is already seeing planning requirements for new housing developments state ‘must connect to district heat network’ or ‘must be district heat ready’.

District heating is the installation of a pre-insulated network of pipes that deliver hot water for space heating and hot water requirements (generated from a central energy centre) to homes and businesses connected to the network. The key advantage to district heating is what makes that water hot. A recent study into the Irish market by the Irish District Energy Association, ‘Heat Atlas for Ireland’, stated that 57 per cent of Ireland’s properties can be heated using waste heat sources.

SSE has been developing and operating heat networks in the UK for over 10 years, helping housing developers meet their planning requirements, decarbonising new and existing housing stock and providing funding to support projects. SSE Airtricity is already set-up to support housing developers in Ireland using experience gained in the UK market. SSE is here to help businesses in Ireland transition to a new low carbon economy and manage the changing operational models required.

(To read the full article visit Ireland’s Housing Magazine website here: https://www.housing.eolasmagazine.ie/district-heating-the-future-for-decarbonising-irish-housing-stock/)

If you want to discuss this topic further with Giles then please contact him via email: giles.newton@sse.com

Related content

Get in touch