Is it time to ban fossil fuel boilers?

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A new report from a coalition of European NGOs has shown that an EU-wide oil & gas boiler ban could result in Ireland reaching 90% of our 2030 renewable energy targets for heating & cooling. 
The technology to switch from fossil fuels is ready, and now what’s needed is the political response to deliver necessary policy changes. We need to see increased and fairer subsidies for a mass roll-out of electric heat pumps, particularly for households in energy poverty. A ban on the installation of fossil fuel boilers could be the silver bullet that accelerates the transition, prevents gas lock-in and reduces emissions.

Why a ban on boilers?

Our dependence on fossil fuels for heating comes at a huge cost, both for our pockets and the climate. With annual energy bills having increased by €1100 per household since 2021, and hitting lowest earners and most vulnerable the hardest, now is a crucial moment to move towards cleaner, more affordable forms of heating. However, the Government’s response to the energy crisis set out in the National Energy Security Framework has contained little in the way of concrete plans for reducing households’ reliance on oil and gas. Our major concern is that boilers continue to be installed, which leaves households locked-in to expensive & polluting fossil fuels.
Heat energy currently accounts for 38% of our final energy consumption in Ireland.  Oil & gas boilers are the main source of heat in Irish homes, with 6.8 million tonnes of CO2 emitted annually from home heating. The International Energy Agency has said that if we are to reach Net Zero emissions by 2050 and prevent further catastrophic global warming, no new fossil fuel boilers should be sold from 2025. 

Coolproducts analysis

This new analysis from Coolproducts shows that introducing a fossil fuel boiler ban in Ireland from 2023 would contribute to reaching 90% of our national contributions to the renewable energy target set out in the EU’s #RenewableEnergyDirective. Authors of the report have stated that “silver bullets do not exist in policy-making, but the renewable heating bullet is as silver as it can get: supporting EU security, tackling energy poverty, all the while clearing national climate targets".

figure 10Heat Pumps

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI)’s comprehensive Heat Study made it clear that rapid heat pump rollout will play a significant role in bringing down Ireland’s heat emissions. It is essential therefore, that all households are supported to replace their fossil fuel boilers. There are grants currently in place for households to make the switch, and the SEAI provides between €3,500 and €6,500 for Irish homes looking to install a heat pump. However this is provided on the condition that a technical assessment (partially funded by the SEAI) is first performed on the house to ensure the home is well-insulated with low heat loss. There is still a way to go in ensuring that this is accessible for all households and that low-income and vulnerable people, as well as those in inefficient homes, are not excluded from the transition to low-carbon heating.

Irish Policy

The Government’s Climate Action Plan notes that it is expected that the installation of fossil fuel boilers in new homes will be effectively banned by 2023. However, this ban needs to be introduced on a legislative footing if the Government is to have a chance of reaching their EU targets alongside their self-imposed target of installing 600,000 electric heat pumps in homes by 2030.

EU Developments

And EU legislation could be a way to accelerate the transition to getting our homes off fossil fuels for good. The new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) currently under negotiation at the EU parliament has the potential to set a cut-off point for the use of any fossil fuel heating in buildings, with a proposal of a 2035 end-date. Dublin MEP Ciarán Cuffe recently put forward recommendations for the EPBD, which includes an EU-wide ban on installing gas and oil boilers in new and renovated buildings from 2025. 

Other European countries are beginning to make strides in getting homes off fossil fuel heat, with innovative policies and fiscal measures in place to encourage the transition. Austria have already banned the sale of oil boilers entirely, and are introducing a ban on the sale and repair of gas boilers from 2023. The UK has reduced VAT on the sale of heat pumps to zero, as well as providing grants of £5,000 for their purchase. Denmark, having banned the installation of fossil fuel boilers in new builds in 2013, has cut taxes on electricity used by heat pumps to close to zero, meaning installation and running of a heat pump is now half that of a gas boiler. 
fig 9


A combination of deep retrofits of our housing stock, along with the installation of heat pumps and rooftop solar has potential to empower Irish households and communities to be a part of a just energy transition. A fossil fuel boiler ban is just one step towards a clean energy revolution. If implemented alongside policies that prioritise energy-poor households, it has the potential to lower energy bills and reduce energy poverty, improve air quality, and end our dependence on fossil fuels that fuel war and climate change. 

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