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Moving Towards Sustainable Energy Communities: An Investigation of the Irish Landscape and its Transition to an Energy Conscious Society

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Abstract

Project Ireland 2040 is planning to invest heavily into upgrading Irish homes to renewable energy sources. From 2021, 45,000 homes per year will be using renewable heat via government driven support schemes. But how is the Irish landscape currently placed in terms of energy consumption and consumer energy consciousness? In this review, energy consumption, the segmentation of energy use and energy consciousness will be framed against Ireland’s unique environmental conditions – climate, population demographics, types of dwellings and use of smart technologies – and the Irish stakeholders currently targeting energy issues. The use of smart technologies is worthy of further consideration here, as they enable (i) suppliers to manage consumer demand, (ii) consumers to leverage information to adjust their usage and (iii) governments to implement energy-based regulations to conserve energy use. From the literature review, initial findings suggest there is a growing awareness of energy related issues among consumers, as reflected in the improvements made to properties to enhance the Building Efficiency Ratings (BER), and the adoption of smart technologies. However, energy poverty is reported to still exist for more than a quarter of Irish households (SEAI, 2017). This points to a need for new interventions to improve energy efficiency, and energy education, particularly for those at risk of energy poverty. Thus, education, and transformational smart learning platforms on energy efficient options are essential. Opportunities also exist for increasing the promotion and use of smart home equipment in Irish homes. Becoming an energy conscious consumer means investing in energy solutions that not only save one money but also makes for sustainable living in the wider community. Moving forward there is clear indication that IS energy informatics focused on energy consciousness - targeting local communities, energy providers and public bodies - are vital for change.

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