Energy Show 2016

A few weeks ago the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) hosted the Energy Show, a two day renewable energy showcase incorporating seminars on topics such as energy efficiency for business, Ireland’s energy targets and SEAI’s energy research projects, along with a workshop on community energy. The show also gave energy providers and innovators a chance to show off their products, with some, such as electric cars and bicycles, available for attendees to try out.

The SEAI led several seminars which typically featured some of their own research, followed by a number of industry speakers. The first of these was a fascinating session on electric vehicles. The Irish government has set a target that 10% of all vehicles on the road by 2020 will be electric. To support this, an enhanced charging infrastructure will have to be put in place e.g. petrol stations would need 12 chargers, 11 standard and one “fast”. A proposed fee of €4.50 per slow charge and €9 per fast charge was mentioned. For more on electric cars, the following are good sources:

Energy show attendees could test drive both electric cars (smooth and quiet) and electric bikes (great for the wind and hills). Bikes were provided by Greenaer (


Electric bicycles at the Energy Show


Car of the future – Tesla Model S with over 400km range

Another great SEAI presentation was on Ireland’s energy use, which covered energy sources, uses, trends and targets. Among the statistics quoted were that Ireland currently imports 85% of its energy, and that transport is the largest emittor of energy-related CO2. The SEAI has an excellent report, Energy in Ireland 1994 – 2014, available here:

Click to access Energy-in-Ireland-1990-2014.pdf

…and has also produced this nice infographic:


On Day 2 of the Energy Show, Friends of the Earth Ireland hosted a very well-attended workshop on community energy. This began with a presentation on EPISCOPE, a fascinating study of energy efficiency in northside Dublin housing stock ( It was noted that a deep retrofit of 75% of Ireland’s residential housing stock will be required to meet our 2050 energy efficiency targets.

Also presenting were the Tipperary Energy Agency ( and the Energy Communities Tipperary Co-operative (, who gave participants the benefit of their experience in setting up community energy projects. They suggested that co-ownership is key: it is better, for example, to have a small share in a large turbine than to have your own turbine. It was also noted that the difficult part is preparing projects for financing, rather than obtaining financing. Some useful resources for communities looking to set up their own energy projects were mentioned:

A different focus was provided later in the day by a session on energy efficiency for large businesses. We heard about the work of Jansen in partnership with the Cork Lower Harbour Energy Group (, and Kingspan ESB, who are helping companies to use their office or factory roof as a “solar farm” ( The latter’s representative stressed that there must be a “business case” for such initiatives: “everybody likes to be seen to be green, but the figures have to add up at the same time”.

Finally, SEAI gave a fascinating presentation on Irish consumer behaviour around energy use. Their extensive survey revealed four categories of consumer, as shown in the infographic below:

SEAI suggested that regulation will be needed to change the behaviour of the final group, the “disengaged”. In the meantime, lets hope that the thousands of visitors to the Energy Show came away inspired. SEAI also have a very interesting report on attitudes to energy use in business; read the PDF here:

Click to access Survey-of-Consumer-Behaviour-in-the-Commercial-Sector-in-the-Republic-of-Ireland.pdf

Oxfam “Behind the Brands”

(Source: Oxfam Behind the Brands report 2016)

Yesterday Oxfam launched the third of its annual “Behind the Brands” reports, which analyses supply chain practices in the world’s ten largest food and beverage companies. Unilever comes out on top with a score of 52/70, although the report suggests that the company could do more on women’s rights in its supply chain. Danone and Associated British Foods are joint bottom of the heap (25/70). Here’s the full report:

Click to access bp-journey-to-sustainable-food-btb-190416-en_1.pdf

And an article in GreenBiz about the report which looks at how the Oxfam campaign has influenced companies to change their supply chain practices:

Creating the UN SDGs – Prof. Paul Walsh UCD

Last week was Sustainable Development Goals Awareness week at UCD, an initiative of the college of Health Sciences. While most of the presentations were health-focused, with strong input from the UCD School of Medicine, the week was launched with a fascinating presentation by Prof. Paul Walsh, Professor of International Development Studies, who spoke on the role of UCD in contributing to the SDGs.

Prof. Walsh, senior advisor at the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), had an active role in the SDG development process, and was able to give us a fascinating insight into how the goals were generated.

Prof. Walsh suggested that, while the preceding Millenium Development Goals were top-down, the SDGs were a joint effort by developed and developing countries. Many different groups were involved in the process, including civil society, academics, NGOs and the private sector. The major groups involved are listed at

Everything was up for grabs in the creation of the goals, from the name of each goal to the target dates. For example, a proposed goal entitled “Family” was not included as people could not agree on the defintion of a “family”. Prof. Walsh also expressed his disappointment with the target date of 2030, which he felt removed a much-needed sense of urgency. In total, there are 17 goals and 169 targets, summarised in the above gif and also the below, which he noted was a marketing tactic, as people were struggling to remember the 17 goals.

Finally, Prof. Walsh spoke of the role of Universities in supporting the SDGs. He highlighted UCD’s work in developing countries and spoke of the need for private sector involvement and multi-stakeholder partnerships. He also had a last, valuable, piece of advice for any academics eager to move in policy circles: “people don’t like the word ‘academic’… ‘science’ is OK”.

Prof. Walsh’s recent TED talk on the SDGs is available here:

Environ 2016: Other highlights

Over the course of the three day Environ conference at the University of Limerick at least 90 speakers presented on a wide range of topics related to the 2016 theme of “Ecosystem Services for a Sustainable Future”. Here is what some, including the three keynote speakers, had to say.

Prof. John O’Halloran, Chair of Zoology at University College Cork, gave the first keynote of the conference. His presentation focused on his research on forest ecology and biodiversity, and the balance between forest management and ecosystem services. He noted that deforestation of at least 3 million hectares – an area the size of Belgium – occurs worldwide every year. Prof. O’Halloran called for forest diversity, citing the results of his recent research which suggest that more diverse forests attract more birds. He also offered this attractive graphic illustrating the connection between humans, biodiversity and ecosystems.

Prof O’Halloran also spoke briefly on UCC’s Green Campus initiative ( As part of the initiative UCC started a Sustainability module, held over 35 events in 2015, and linked 35 courses to Green Campus. The University now has a recycling rate of 35% and has saved 1m in waste costs. Green purchasing is part of all tender contracts and it is the first third level institution to reach ISO90001.

Finally, he stressed the importance of education for sustainability, noting that between 8 and 10 years old is the optimum age for environmental education. He also cited the Government’s 2014 policy for sustainability education:

Click to access National-Strategy-on-Education-for-Sustainable-Development-in-Ireland-2014-2020.pdf

The next keynote speaker was Katy Tsemelis of the International Aluminium Institute (, whose presentation highlighted the new ways of managing the environmental impact of bauxite residue, a by-product of aluminium production. She also stressed that global aluminium demand will have to be met increasingly by recycled aluminium products..

She was followed by Prof. Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex, who gave an illuminating presentation on his work on the impact of insecticides on bumblebee populations. In particular he looked at the impact of neonicotinoids, or “neonics” ( He also drew our attention to the WWF’s statistics on biodiversity decline worldwide.

Aside from the keynotes, some of the other presentations included:

Dr. William Finnegan of NUIG looked at the impact of the dairy industry on climate change, and showed us which dairy products have the greatest global warming potential (GWP):

Drs. Brian Lennon and Niall Dunphy, part of the major new ENTRUST research project at UCC (, explored the possibility of a “new energy paradigm”, and discussed the need to move beyond “energy as a commodity” towards “energy citizenship”. They also presented this gif from on “milestones in climate science”:

Another interesting presentation came from Teresa Hume at Queens University Belfast, who discussed the University’s large EPA “energy transitions” project, which is looking at the societal process of energy transition, drawing from the socio-technical transition studies literature. She stressed that energy transition must be a multi-level, multi-phase and multi-actor process.

Finally, here’s a few of the many excellent poster presentations from the ENVIRON delegates.