Exploring the spatial and temporal determinants of gas central heating adoption


To make the transition away from carbon-intensive energy towards cleaner alternatives policy and technological improvements must go hand-in-hand. Historical information which maps out the timescale of transition from traditional fuels (such as peat and coal) towards cleaner fuels (such as gas or renewables) can provide useful insight for policy-makers.

This research examines adoption of gas as a heating fuel in Ireland. The results, which use data on the roll-out of the Irish gas network over 100 years, reveal that there is a 3 percentage point increase in household gas connections on average for every year the network has been in place. This effect decreases over time. The connection rate is much higher for more recent periods. Uptake rose by about 12% per year over the past twenty years.

The results also indicate that proximity to other fuel sources, such as peat bogs, has an impact of connections, as have recent policy initiatives to ban the burning of bituminous coal.

Some homes in Ireland are still not connected to the gas network. The researchers provide an analysis that simulates gas network expansions yet to be undertaken and the potential impact of these on uptake of gas and the associated changes in CO2 emissions.

Key points for decision makers

  • This research examines the timescale of the transition to gas central heating from traditional heating fuels in Ireland.
  • The findings could inform policy which aims to transition residential heating from traditional fuels (such as peat and coal) to cleaner fuels (such as gas and renewables).
  • The results find that for every year the gas network has been in place there is a 3 percentage point rise in household gas connection. This effect decreases over time. The connection rate is much higher in recent periods. Over the past 20 years connection rose about 12% every year.
  • Uptake of gas central heating is affected by proximity to the gas network, to peat bogs (an alternate source of fuel) and proximity to areas which have banned use of bituminous coal.
  • Some homes in Ireland are not yet connected to the gas network. The researchers simulate the likely expansion and the impact on CO2.
  • Expansion of the gas network is consistent with the longer term ambitions of reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by over 80%. Longer term ambitions to inject biomethane into the natural gas network has the potential to reduce emissions by 74% compared to natural gas.
  • Ireland has a cultural legacy of solid fuel usage which created a reluctance to switch to more modern heating systems. There has been a strong policy push in recent years to encourage greater usage of renewable energy.
  • In the EU approximately 25% of the total energy requirement is for residential buildings. The residential sector must be decarbonised in order for the EU to meet targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

ISSN 2515-5717 (Online) – Grantham Research Institute Working Paper series
ISSN  2515-5709 (Online) – CCCEP Working Paper series