Energy prices will be 'far higher' without action on climate
ELECTRICITY prices are likely to increase by up to 15pc as Ireland deploys more renewable energy in a move to a low-carbon economy, but the costs will be far higher if we continue with business as usual.
A report setting out how the State can dramatically reduce emissions from power generation, residential heating and the transport sector also says the cost of retrofitting homes to make them warmer and cheaper to heat will be as high as €25bn, but that the costs will be repaid over a period of up to 12 years.
The PwC report, commissioned by the Electricity Association of Ireland, says that rapid deployment of electric vehicles, a possible ban on conventional cars and hikes to the carbon tax will all be needed to reduce emissions and prevent dangerous climate change.
While the cost of electricity is likely to rise by 10pc-15pc, investment in energy efficiency and transport will result in average household energy spend falling by 20pc. An 11pc hike in electricity costs would add €220 a year to bills, but business as usual with a high carbon price would add €510.
And it says the transition will provide economic opportunities. Development and deployment of clean technologies will provide job opportunities and create health benefits through cleaner air quality. Businesses will also gain a competitive advantage due to a reduction in energy and use of raw resources including water. Companies which have committed to drawing all their energy from renewable sources, like Apple, will be encouraged to invest here.
"Ireland's ability to attract Apple and its €850m data centre investment could be an insight into future opportunities," it says. "The marketing of Ireland's favourable climate, which reduces air conditioning requirements for data farms, when coupled with a low-carbon energy system could give Ireland a comparative advantage in the competitive market for FDI technology related investment."
The Paris climate deal, signed by 195 countries, commits to limiting average global temperature rises to no more than 2C which will require emissions to fall by up to 80pc in developed nations including Ireland.
The Government's draft National Mitigation Plan has been roundly criticised for failing to set out meaningful policies to reduce emissions in the short term, which the report warns will eventually add to costs.
"Failure by policy makers, consumers and businesses to prioritise mitigation action now will only serve to increase future cost and risk," it says, adding that failure to make efforts to decarbonise between 2020-2030 could impose additional costs globally of up to €5.6trn in the period up to 2050.
On transport, it says mass adoption of electric vehicles from 2025 - when they reach price parity with conventional motors - coupled with fuelling HGVs with biogas will help reduce transport emissions by up to 94pc. Biofuels may have to be imported to avoid impacting on food production.
Emissions from residential heating will drop by 80pc through extensive retrofitting of older homes and stringent building regulations on new-builds. It would take up to 12 years to repay the typical cost of a 'deep retrofit' costing €30,000, but average household energy consumption would drop by 71pc. The bill to retrofit all households could be €25bn.
A 92pc reduction in the electricity sector can be achieved by building a power system largely based on onshore wind and solar, with back-up to be provided by lower-emitting gas-fired power stations.
There should be limited supports for solar, and farms should be located beside wind developments to make use of grid connections. More interconnection will also be required, and coal and peat use phased out by 2025. The Government should also introduce a system of "continually-reducing" carbon budgets, where the amount which can be emitted over a particular period of time is set out. This already applies in the UK.