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Irish District Energy Association

Supporting and Promoting District Heating and Cooling in Ireland

IrDEA Board Calls for One Final Push to Transform District Heating in Ireland

25 Jun 2024 15:53 | Anonymous

Board Statement | 25 June 2024
The Board of IrDEA, David Connolly and Donna Gartland, reflect on the achievements made by the current government during its tenure in office and the potential to put in place the foundations for the sector as it reaches the end of its term.

One Final Push to Transform District Heating in Ireland

With the announcement of Minister Eamon Ryan’s imminent departure  from politics recently, it has been a time to reflect on just how much has been achieved in the district heating sector in recent years, but also how critical the final part of his tenure as the Green Party leader will be.

Ireland has the lowest share of renewable heating in Europe and in this context, it is extremely challenging to create a new policy and regulatory environment to stimulate growth as there is very limited knowledge, demand or capacity to get things started. However, even in this backdrop, this Government has put in place the foundations for exponential growth of renewable heating and in particular district heating in the years to come.

Before the government of the 32nd Dáil was elected, there was no operational large-scale district heating project in Ireland, no underlying support scheme or prospect of one coming, a relatively modest target to grow district heating, and no regulation of the district heating sector. That is no longer the case.

The first  significant change the Government made was to add additional capacity to the department and agencies and create a strong focus on renewable heat. In 2020 there was a single Assistant Secretary for  energy in the  Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), now in addition to two new business units dedicated purely to heating there is also a new district heating Centre of Excellence in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.  This focus and resourcing for heat would have been unimaginable back in 2020.

Similarly, this Government created the first dedicated national study for the heat sector, and more specifically a plan to bring the heat sector from the lowest share of renewable heat in Europe to net zero carbon emissions. The National Heat Study  published in 2022 contained eight in depth analysis of the various solutions available in Ireland to decarbonise heat, including an analysis on the potential for district heating, and concluded with a roadmap of recommendations for the short, medium and long term. This robust evidence base was the first study from any national agency to recognise the enormous potential of district heating in Ireland and has transformed the perception of what it can achieve across stakeholders in Ireland’s energy sector.

At the time the current Government was elected, the target for district heating growth was relatively modest at “0.12 TWh growing linearly from 2023 to 2028” , bringing the total supply to ~0.6 TWh by 2030. In contrast, this Government informed by an evidence base like the one published in the National Heat Study set a much more ambitious target of 2.7 TWh, which has built huge confidence in the sector’s potential to grow.

In 2022, the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) which regulates electricity, gas and water in Ireland, was officially appointed as the regulator of District Heating and Cooling networks. For the first time ever, a Regulator was appointed to protect final consumers of district heating in Ireland.

In 2023, Minister Ryan opened the first ever large-scale district heating scheme in Ireland in 2023, the Tallaght District Heating Scheme, a landmark moment for the sector. In addition, the first ever Government policy paper dedicated to kickstarting the district heating sector was published by the District Heating Steering Group. It outlined 11 specific policy recommendations across legislation, support schemes, regulation and capacity building (out of which the SEAI Centre of Excellence was formed).

A year on from this study and as the final phase of the current Government appears on the horizon, there is huge anticipation that the first ever legislation for district heating in Ireland will be initiated and the first ever support scheme for district heating projects will be available. These are the last vital pieces of the jigsaw.

In particular, putting in place the first ever financial support scheme for district heating before the conclusion of this Government will be vital to ensure all the work to date is can deliver projects on the ground before 2030.

With this final push, this Government can leave a legacy for the district heating sector which will echo through many decades ahead as the sector looks to finally play a central role in decarbonising Ireland’s heat sector.

Irish District Energy Association

13 Adelaide Road, Saint Kevins, Dublin 2, D02 P950 

Company Registration: 619382

089 4946654

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