There is much talk about the need to reduce gas import into the EU. For example, Russia supplies around one third of Europe’s gas. However, the gas networks of all EU countries are interconnected so that if, for example, Ireland reduces its gas use, then that will reduce the amount imported into the EU. It, therefore, makes sense for all countries in the EU to reduce their gas use regardless of where their gas is sourced from.
In the discussion about reducing gas imports, I feel that one important point has been missed: small but neither the less significant reductions in gas consumption can be made easily and quickly. For example, if the EU reduced gas consumption by 10%, this would reduce gas imports from Russia by 30%. More significant reductions would have a greater effect.
How is this reduction to be achieved? We present a six-point plan here that covers immediate actions and some longer-term actions.
Cut household gas consumption
Households can immediately reduce gas consumption by two simple, painless steps. First, turn the boiler or room thermostat down by 1 degree C. This will have minimal impact on comfort. Secondly, delay the start time of the heating by 30 minutes in the morning and turn off the heating 30 minutes earlier in the evening.
A government information campaign should be implemented to get this message across to the public.
Further steps can be taken, such as better insulation, but these are longer-term measures and will take some time for the effect to be felt.
Cut commercial building gas consumption
Energy surveys of many commercial buildings have identified simple no cost steps to cut energy consumption that can be implemented immediately. Savings of a minimum of 10% are easily achievable. For one large commercial office in Dublin, gas savings of 30% were identified with no implementation cost. Many of these organisations would have been audited under the EU Energy Efficiency Directive, and thus the necessary information to make reductions in gas consumption is available.
Institutional investors and shareholders should now ask where these organisations are in implementing these savings.
Refocus heat pumps grant
Currently, SEAI provides grant aid to households to install heat pumps. As the pot of money for this grant aid is limited, it should now be redirected towards replacing gas boilers only, and the incentive correspondingly increased.
Reduce use of gas for generating electricity
Gas is widely used for generating electricity; it is less polluting than either coal or oil. However, as the imperative is to reduce the use of gas until alternative cleaner sources are found, then we will have to accept the increased use of other fossil fuels for the short term.
Bring forward ban on gas boilers
Gas boilers will be banned in Ireland from 2025. This date should be brought forward by one year to 2024.
Use emergency powers to complete wind energy projects.
Many wind and other alternative energy projects are stalled due to planning issues. The present system favours local issues and Nimby’s over national issues. Emergency powers, similar to those used during the Covid crises, should be used to fast track those stalled projects that could come online within a six month period.
The author, Bob Sutcliffe, is a Chartered Engineer and Certified Energy Manager with over30 years’ experience of energy and carbon footprint reduction.