New measures to make Ireland even greener!

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Several measures were outlined that are intended to help Ireland meet its target of a low carbon economy but concerns have been raised by some groups who feel these measures don’t go far enough.

As part of Budget 2017, the Government has announced that it will spend over €100million on energy projects in 2017 with the aim of reducing our carbon emissions by 116,000 each year and supporting 3,000 jobs.

Plans to expand energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes across the country at a cost of €24million were also announced, while €500,000 will be invested in a forum to discuss best climate practices.

There’s some relief for home-owners too; €7million has been allocated to a new Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme, and €2million will be given to the Better Energy Homes Scheme to support individual householders in making energy efficiency improvements to their homes.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) has indicated that the design consultation paper for the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme should be issued prior to the end of 2016 and that a scheme may be operational by Q3 2017 (this scheme was first announced in 2013). A €4million Better Energy Communities Scheme and a €8m Warmth and Wellbeing pilot scheme for people living in energy poverty were also announced.

Other measures designed to meet the challenge of climate change include the following:

– A relief from vehicle registration on electric vehicles for five years, as well as extending the relief for hybrids for two years.
– Drivers of large vehicles will be encouraged to switch from diesel to natural gas.
– All solid fuels that have a biomass element will gain a relief from carbon tax.
– €50million in capital spending will be spent on the Renewable Heat Incentive, better energy grants as well as the electric vehicles subsidy.
– The Green Low-Carbon Agri Environmental Scheme (GLAS) will increase to €211 million.

Although the Government has acknowledged it will not reach its goal of retrofitting one million houses by 2020, this year will, however, see an additional 25,000 homes insulated.

While all these measures have been largely welcomed, the Government has been criticised for failing to go the extra mile and for not implementing initiatives that would go much further in helping the country deliver on its EU 2020 renewable energy target.

Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, pointed to a lack of funding for new public transport projects and for no new initiatives to set Ireland on the path to being a clean economy. Other groups have derided the Government for failing to include incentives to reduce consumption, waste or pollution and for not considering mandatory feed-in tariffs for renewable energy producers.

Support tariffs for Irish solar and offshore wind development, which could go much further in helping the country deliver on its EU 2020 renewable energy targets, have also been called for since the Budget 2017.

Opinion is split on whether these climate change measures go far enough but it seems everyone is in agreement that they’re a step in the right direction. Whether it’s a step that has come too late remains to be seen.