More than half of all households in Ireland still use solid fuels such as coal, peat and wood to heat their homes, according to a new study released by the state’s Environment Agency.
A study commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency found that 54% of households use solid fuels to heat their homes, with 16% using them as their primary heating source.
Almost 14% of households use turf, including 4% for which it is the main source of heat.
Those who relied on solid fuels as their primary heating source were more likely to have lower income and educational attainment, and were more likely to live in older homes.
The study found that 94% of homes that use turf as their primary heating source burn it an average of at least 42 hours per week during the winter months.
Over 30% of households in all counties except Dublin, Offaly and Donegal use solid fuels to supplement their main heating source, with the figure reaching % in some counties in the south east and border regions.
And solid fuels account for 17.6% of all energy used to heat homes in Ireland – the second highest rate among the 28 EU member states after Poland, where it accounts for 40.2%.
However, the researchers found that households had little knowledge of the environmental and health risks associated with burning solid fuels.
The results come after a major political controversy erupted over proposals by Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to ban the sale of turf.
The Green Party leader’s initiative has sparked major divisions among coalition parties, with backbenchers Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael strongly opposed to the measure.
EPA research found that low-smoke coal and sod peat were the most commonly used solid fuels in homes for which they were the primary heat sources, with logs and peat briquettes being the most commonly used supplements for homes with other heat sources.
The number of households that are switching to solid fuels to heat their homes is greater than the number that are moving away from fuels such as coal, peat and wood.
At the same time, a survey of over 1,800 households found that policy options to reduce solid fuel use, including grants and regulations on smoky solid fuel use, were more likely to be supported than opposed.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the Environmental Research Institute at University College Cork, found that the non-traded solid fuels sector – purchases through informal markets, own production or harvesting of fuels – accounts for about 25% of all consumed in the Republic solid fuels.
“Interviews with households examining their lived experiences of using solid fuels underscored the strong affinity for burning solid fuels, particularly among rural dwellers,” said one of the report’s lead authors, Dr. John Eakins.
He added: “Rural dwellers also placed a high value on access to untraded fuels, which they believed was an essential part of the way they fueled themselves.”
While some households recognized the need to change their heating systems, Dr. Eakins said information and assurances needed to be provided to persuade them to move away from solid fuels.
“Measures to prevent households from falling into energy poverty would be key to acceptance if such activities were restricted,” said Dr. Eakins.
The study found that the location and age of homes were key factors in deciding to switch to using solid fuel.
People living in buildings built after 2011 are much less likely to use solid fuel.
dr Eakins said the fact that primary and ancillary solid fuel users have different characteristics and motivations is important in designing strategies to discourage people from using solid fuels.
The EPA said the report was motivated by other studies that had highlighted air quality problems in cities and towns in Ireland, with particulate matter emissions from the burning of solid fuels being a particular concern as it was accepted that they are responsible for 1,300 premature emissions deaths each year.
The EPA said the complexity of household use of solid fuels and the lack of reliable data are hampering the task of developing effective policy solutions to support the transition away from using solid fuels to heat homes.
Evidence from other countries suggested that a range of different policy measures, including retrofitting, tax breaks and awareness-raising campaigns on the negative effects of solid fuel use, were needed to support an effective phasing out of their use.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/half-of-irish-households-still-burning-solid-fuels-including-14pc-who-rely-on-turf-report-reveals-41599814.html Half of Irish households still burn solid fuels, including 14 per cent that rely on turf, the report shows