7 energy-saving measures Ireland could take right now

Analysis: Germany has introduced national energy saving rules and Ireland can learn from them in the face of a serious energy crisis

We are facing a difficult winter in Ireland, with rising energy costs, supply issues and questions about energy security. In Germany, the the government has introduced binding measures to protect the energy supply and limit the use of gas. Buildings and monuments will no longer be lit for aesthetic purposes, illuminated advertisements must be turned off after 10 p.m., while temperatures in the halls and corridors of public buildings will be lowered to a maximum of 19 degrees. In October, a second, longer-term set of rules will come into effect and will apply for two years. Could the pragmatic measures taken in Germany work for us in Ireland?

“If we step back and look at society at large, we are heading for a very deep and severe energy crisis,” says Dr. Paul Dean research fellow at MaREI Center for marine and renewable energies and the Environmental Research Institute of UDC. “We are not connected to Russia through pipelines, but we are connected through price. That’s where we feel the impact.

“Our massive reliance on natural gas and fossil fuels in Ireland, the cost of that reliance is reflected in the price you are paying at the moment. We are spending around £1m per hour in Ireland importing oil, gas and coal For a country that is so rich in renewable resources and with such smart people, this is a truly terrible situation. I hope all is well, but in many ways you have to plan for the worst and hope for the worst. better”.

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According to RTÉ Radio 1’s This Week, how are energy prices affecting your business?

Energy Saving Measures in Government Buildings

While the impact of energy-saving measures in government buildings would be “relatively small”, the message they send in terms of leadership is important, he says. “I think the Germans take a very pragmatic approach and in Ireland we also have to take a very pragmatic approach. Optics matter a lot, so it’s really important that there is leadership from above. It would be very important that our government really leads by example, demonstrating through its reduced energy consumption that they are taking this crisis very seriously.”

This could take the form of reduced use of lighting and lowering of thermostats in Leinster House at 18 degrees “as we’re asking a lot of families across the country to do,” says Deane. “Reduced car travel in and out of Leinster House as well, in terms of flexibility in how they get in and out of work. Those things are important and again the perspective and leadership they show is probably more important than the savings.”

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From RTÉ Radio 1’s Brendan O’Connor, Professor Aoife Foley discusses the impact of soaring energy costs

Shop lights and public monuments

Anything involving non-essential or non-critical electricity use or wastage needs to be looked at, Deane says. “Looking at the German example, [turning off lights on] advertising at late hours of the night, after 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. in the evening. Storefronts, neon lights, a lot of that stuff that’s not necessary and not critical, can be turned off.”

“We see this already happening, many companies are already doing this because the cost of keeping the lights on in your store front late at night costs a lot of money. Obviously they have to balance that with the needs of On a broader level, large billboards, street lights and monuments, above a certain level at night could be considered off.

“Doing this on a very broad level would have significant impacts and it also sends a message to society, it’s a bit like wearing masks during covid. This reminds you of the crisis in which we find ourselves. That’s not just what it does, but what it symbolizes: the need to reduce energy consumption and the social solidarity around it.”

Cars drive around the unlit Victory Column on September 2, 2022 in Berlin, Germany
Image: Getty Images

Less hot water in public buildingss

“it’s not so much hot water, because from a health point of view you need water above a certain temperature. It’s being careful and being aware of the use hot water There is no point in heating large water tanks to 60 degrees or 80 Take a step back, be pragmatic and make sure that heating systems are well insulated, that they are maintained, that they are they are maintained in public buildings.”

Reduced trading hours

We did it in the 1980s and now it could help again: reduce trading hours on Sundays. “Now this is going to be deeply unpopular with commercial organizations, but all of these things are going to be unpopular,” Deane says. “Sometimes we might have to try some of these things and see how they work. Having one less trading day is something a lot of European countries are already doing and something countries like Ireland and the UK are already doing. United in particular may need to consider in the short term.”

Without a car Sundays

“What they’ve done in the past for the last few energy crisisin countries like the Netherlands, they introduced car-free Sundays or Sundays with the family. You’re not going back to the Stone Age, you’re going back to a time, maybe 15-20 years ago, when life was a little simpler. You stay in your locality, maybe you ride a bike, you go for a walk, but you don’t go shopping, you don’t go to the movies, you don’t go to the restaurant, it would have a big impact on your consumption. energy in Ireland.

Reduce the use of public Christmas lights

“Rather than seek to ban Christmas lights, be reasonable about how long they are on. Turn them on around trading hours and then turn them off afterward. Christmas is an important time, it will be deep winter, it’s going to be a very tough crisis psychologically, mentally, socially, and it’s going to be difficult for a lot of families. So I think finding that balance between what is socially correct and what is pragmatic from an energetic point of view and I think that this balance can be found.

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According to RTÉ Archives, Ireland adopts Car Free Day in September 2000 across Europe

“For the household a lot of new Christmas tree lights use LEDs. They use very little electricity, most of them are actually battery powered at this point so extending that to the household level doesn would not make sense, we have to live LED lamps at the household level consume small amounts of electricity compared to the joy they bring to children and parents, this is important too It is better to be pragmatic and sensible rather than a blunt approach.

Micheal Martin should put on a warm and woolly Aran sweater

“If we think back to the Covid period, when political leaders went out with masks that gave a sense of seriousness and urgency. If we look at the world of energy, in large countries like Japan for example when they were going through another energy crisis in the early 2000s. Their energy crisis mainly happened during the summer, with the air conditioning in office buildings consuming huge amounts of electricity.

“What they did there, they encouraged business leaders to take their ties off, unbutton the tops of shirts, dress up a little, and that had a lot of impact. Because that it showed leadership from the top and it showed that things were taken very seriously at the top and it introduced a very different kind of social norm. If we saw the Taoiseach entering government buildings, with a sweater, being dressed very sensibly. It just makes it a little more accessible.”

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According to RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime, should Irish energy production be nationalised?

The likelihood of gas shortages in Ireland is small, but still very real, and if we continue to do what we are doing, we could run the risk of increased gas shortages, says Deane. “What Ireland needs to watch is, yes, what’s happening in Russia, because it affects us through price. But our physical supply is very much dependent on what’s happening in the UK. So if the UK is well supplied by countries like Norway and liquefied natural gas (LNG), which comes from countries like America, and can maintain access to these supplies, Ireland will be fine If the UK has trouble getting gas, we’ll also have trouble.

“Therefore the Kremlin will determine how much we pay for gas and then the UK will determine if we have physical rationing,” says Deane. “I don’t think there will be doomsday scenarios in terms of being cut off 100% from the UK. , but if the UK experiences rationing, we will have to shoulder some of that burden as well.”


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ