The Energy Institute have outlined results from a Red C survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 members of the public in the Republic of Ireland, which highlights society’s lack of knowledge and understanding of a variety of energy related topics.

The announcement of the survey results coincides with the launch of Ireland 2050. Ireland 2050 – www.Ireland2050.ie – is a new website to help the public understand the issues at play in developing our energy system and to be aware of the choices and trade-offs which are likely to be available to us as a society. It will also highlight the scale of the changes required and enable citizens to participate in the debate about Ireland’s energy future.

The research revealed society’s lack of knowledge and understanding of a variety of energy related topics including:

· What proportion of the price of electricity is determined by supplier margin? The majority believe their suppliers take a margin of 26-75%, far higher than actual (10-15%)

· Where does Ireland’s natural gas come from? Around half of people were broadly correct (half Ireland, or majority is Irish), and around half were incorrect (majority from UK).

· Ranking cost of electricity from lowest to highest – fuel; transmission; and tax/VAT – Most people aware that fuel makes up a high share of electricity costs. Yet there is misconception that the grid makes up the lowest share and tendency to think taxes are higher than they actually are.

· Fuel sources for electricity – People were most confident in their knowledge of the share of waste, wind and peat in electricity generation – the highest share among those surveyed in each of these categories attempted to guess and guessed correctly what share of waste, wind, and peat contribute to electricity generation.
There is far less knowledge of what types of conventional fuels are used to generate the remaining electricity. While the largest share of people opted ‘don’t know’ in most cases, from those that did guess, there are incorrect general perceptions that oil accounts for much more than it actually does and gas accounts for much less.
People are least confident about their knowledge of biomass as a share of electricity generation – 46% did not attempt to guess (the highest perceived lack of knowledge across all fuel types), and 20% were wrong in their guess.

· How important are following issues in energy supply: cost, sustainability, security, safety? Generally, people rated each of these issues highly; important or very important. It is interesting to observe the disconnect between safety (does not endanger humans, wildlife, or property) and emissions. More people view ‘safety’ as very important compared to ‘sustainability’; in reality the two are very closely connected in the future.

· How close are we to meeting our renewable energy targets? Most people think we are around halfway to meeting our targets, barring transport, in which they believe we are further away. People are well informed about our distance to meeting targets.

www.Ireland2050.ie aims to inform the public regarding Ireland’s energy system, past and present, as well as the challenges ahead in balancing energy supply and demand to meet carbon reduction targets. The interactive My2050 feature on the Ireland 2050 website allows users to explore their preferred options to meet tough carbon reduction targets while finding enough energy to power the Irish economy in the years ahead. My2050 tasks the user with building their own future energy system taking into account future energy demand scenarios, and the sustainability of supply, to understand complex energy issues. The 2050 Calculator on the website is a valuable tool for specialists in energy, business, Government, NGOs, and universities.

The International 2050 Calculator started in the Department of Energy & Climate Change in the United Kingdom. Twenty countries have since launched their own calculator.

Chairman of the Energy Institute, Neil Carroll, said, “To meet the challenges of sustainability the Government has determined that Ireland’s energy system is to reduce its CO2 emissions by 80% in the year 2050 to help dangerous climate change. In the 30 years or so before then we have many choices to make about how we use energy and where we get it.

“Our aim is to inform the public discourse about energy and Ireland’s energy future. Ireland 2050 aims to foster a greater understanding of Ireland’s energy system and the challenges ahead. My2050 is a dynamic and interactive modeling exercise where users can explore their preferred options to meet tough carbon reduction targets while finding enough energy to power the Irish economy in the years ahead. It’s for people across the country to engage with and use.

Ireland 2050 Project leader, the Energy Institute’s David Taylor, said, “The site is an independent resource for all – layperson and policy maker alike, and is designed to empower people to engage in the debate about Ireland’s energy future. My2050 looks at energy demand and supply and allows you to choose your preferred pathway to 2050 taking into account how we travel; how we heat homes; the level of insulation we use; how green we would like to see industry and the fact that there is no silver bullet. The challenge is to reduce CO2 emissions to 20% of 1990 levels to help avoid dangerous climate change.”

“We want to thank all out partners for their help and support in building this engaging model. It is a way to explore the effects on emissions of alternatives such as energy saving and investment in new energy supply.”

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