Saturday 21 July 2018

How consumers are changing the face of the Irish energy industry

Solar panels generate clean electricity and can also reduce waste, as any unused power can be diverted automatically to heat a home’s hot water system.
Solar panels generate clean electricity and can also reduce waste, as any unused power can be diverted automatically to heat a home’s hot water system.

Irish consumers are changing the way in which energy is consumed and generated. From using apps in the home to remotely managing our heating systems, driving electric cars and installing solar panels, we’re making huge leaps towards energy efficiency and saving money along the way.

When it comes to the climate crisis, ultimately, we’re all liable. In Ireland, as a developed world country, almost every aspect of our lives does damage to the environment. Even something as insignificant as leaving the heating on while we’re out of the house can have an impact on carbon dioxide emissions. However, the global climate movement is growing and is claiming some victories as people switch on to the reality of a climate calamity.

In Ireland, we’re reducing our energy consumption in small but fundamental ways, rewriting the rules and effectively changing the industry.

We’re just getting started. By 2050, our lifestyles will be completely different. Understandably, it’s hard to look that far ahead; even looking towards 2020 feels a little hazy. But squint a little farther into the future and imagine that by then we, as a nation - our children and grandchildren included - will be enjoying the fruits of our efforts by taking carbon out of the system. By then, it is hoped, the world will have adopted and embraced new modes of generating and consuming energy, including the way we drive our cars and heat our homes.

By becoming more energy efficient, we’re also saving money when it comes to bills. Let’s look at some of the key changes and savings that we’re making now:

Tech-savvy homes

Homes are becoming ‘smarter’ as appliances do our bidding with just the click of a button. Smart home controls are becoming popular in houses as we look for more control and intelligence in how we consume heat and electricity. Perhaps you want the lights to come on and off while you’re away to ward off intruders, instead of leaving them burning the entire time you’re absent. Or maybe you don’t want to leave the house without fearing that you may have left the immersion on? These things can be all be achieved with the magic of smart home controls.

Not only do these controls provide more comfort and security, they also save cash. Families can, on average, expect to reduce their energy usage by up to 20pc by installing a heating control to a home heating system.

There’s a lot of exciting innovation in this area to meet the demands of the empowered consumer with the roll out of smart plugs, door and window sensors, motion detectors and thermostat integration. Irish homebuyers are leading this demand and housing developers are thankfully responding. It is estimated that almost 40pc of new homes currently being built in Ireland will have elements of smart home technology included in their plans.

No more Chimneys

The landscape is changing, especially in urban areas, and traditional chimneys are slowly fading away. We’ve started to wake up to the fact that what we burn and how we burn it to stay warm is important. With that awakening, thermal boilers are also on the way out.

The Government is steering away from fossil fuel usage and focusing on heat pumps for the home. They offer many benefits, including carbon and energy saving. They’re popular worldwide but the trend is only taking off in Ireland now.

Heat pumps are electrical devices which convert energy from the air outside of the home into useful heat, in the same way a fridge extracts heat from its inside. To encourage uptake of heat pumps, grants are now available from Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Solar panels have also become a common sight on Irish roofs as householders embrace the concept of generating their own electricity while enjoying significant savings of up to €250 off annual energy bills. Solar panels are excellent multi-taskers. As well as being able to generate clean electricity, they can also reduce waste, as any unused power can be diverted automatically to heat a home’s hot water system. Some households are even combining their solar panels with a smart app to track their energy use and savings in real time. Ideal for budgeting.

The future is clean…and electrified

If anyone is in doubt of this transition to the electrification of our future, just take a look at the increase in interest and uptake of electric vehicles in recent years. No longer just the car of choice for eco-conscious Hollywood stars, Irish motorists are getting in on the movement too.

Thanks to advanced technologies, a comprehensive nationwide charging infrastructure and government backed incentives such as purchase grants and reduced toll fees, consumers are realising the benefits and making the switch to electric.

Everyone has a role to play in reducing carbon from our environment. With energy consumption habits and applications changing, so too is our electricity generation system. Since 1990, the carbon intensity of electricity in Ireland has halved with more renewable forms – predominantly wind - now part of the mix to ensure the lights and heat stay on in our homes and businesses.

Together, we can all make a difference and create a brighter future for all. And save a bit of cash while we’re at it.

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