Energy savings are key to reducing bills, says minister

With an average household due to have around €1,000 less next year thanks to Budget 2013, that money could be recouped with savings from energy efficiency, minister of state Sean McEntee told a Teagasc conference on energy efficiency on Thursday.

With an average household due to have around €1,000 less next year thanks to Budget 2013, that money could be recouped with savings from energy efficiency, minister of state Sean McEntee told a Teagasc conference on energy efficiency on Thursday.

“Every household was hit with around €1,000 (in cuts and taxes) over the next 12 months,” Mr McEntee, a minister of state at the Department of Agriculture, told Teagasc’s National Agricultural Energy Efficiency Conference in Kilkenny’s Lyrath Estate Hotel. “If you asked me where would you recoup that money, I would say right here in this room,” he said.

In his keynote address, he spoke of his own missed opportunity when building his house five years ago and having an opportunity to make it highly energy efficient. “But I was cowardly and I didn’t do it,” he said, and now his energy bills are over €2,000 a year.

He compared that with a man he met who had solar panels and a wood pellet boiler at his home – and his heating bill is €600 a year.

“There is no doubt – the one thing that is crippling everybody is the cost of energy,” the minister of state said. “Everybody should be encouraged to go down the road of not using oil or gas.”

This message of reducing energy consumption and opting for renewable sources in the agricultural sector was at the heart of the conference, which was sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the Farming Independent and Macra na Feirme.

The days of relying solely and heavily on fossil fuels have passed, Teagasc director Gerry Boyle told the conference. “Fossil fuels are about using the products of the ancient sun. What we need to be concerned about today is using efficiently the products of the modern sun,” he said.

The concern is not only greenhouse emissions but also the cost of energy, he said.

“The ever increasing level of energy prices has forced the sector to look at how it can utilise energy more efficiently and minimise its contribution to the emission of greenhouse gases,” Mr Boyle said. “It is not just a compliance issue at all. This is a great opportunity for us to proactively communicate the real benefits we have in terms of sustainable production systems.”

“This is an area where there have been several false dawns and I think we need to tell ourselves again to exploit the opportunities in this area,” he added.

Brian Motherway of SEAI said it was also a matter of not “wasting money sending it abroad.”

“Keep that money in the Irish economy – spend it on jobs and in our own communities,” he said.

Energy efficiency will also become increasingly more important to the agricultural sector as retailers move to highlight products’ carbon footprints in the coming years, he said.

“It is a challenge that, if this generation does not resolve, the cost will be borne by future generations,” said My Boyle of Teagasc. “Who will stand up and articulate the case on behalf of future generations?”