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Fuels for Ireland’s vision is to decarbonise our fuels and accelerate Ireland’s energy transition

In August 2020, Fuels for Ireland launched our ambitious strategy outlining how our industry will become carbon neutral by 2050.

Our ‘Powering today and tomorrow’ strategy explained how forecourt operators, home heating suppliers and other fuel providers are transforming their products while continuing to play an essential role in fueling Irish life.

This was a landmark moment for our organisation and industry.

For almost 30 years, the Irish Petroleum Industry Association had represented petrol station operators, home heating providers and others in the sector. We are immensely proud of the role which our members have played, and the role which they continue to play each and every day.

Liquid fuel providers fulfil virtually all of Ireland’s transport energy needs, keeping us connected to the ones who matter most and connecting our island with the outside world, even in these challenging times.

Almost 700,000 Irish homes are heated by oil-fired systems. For many homeowners, particularly those in rural areas, home heating oil remains the only viable option available to them: one that is both economical and efficient, simple and secure. Our members are united in their determination to continue to fuel Irish life to 2050 and far beyond.

However, we also recognise the urgent need to respond to the climate emergency and ensure that Ireland is a leader in tackling it. That is exactly why Fuels for Ireland has developed a detailed plan for how to deliver the change we need.

We know that fossil fuels cannot be the basis of Ireland’s long-term energy plans, or the basis of our industry’s long-term business strategy.

In order for Ireland to achieve its ambitious emissions reductions goals, our members need to fundamentally transform the way we do business and the fuels we provide.

To do this, forecourt operators have been busy installing EV charging points to service the growing fleet of electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. Far from being reluctant to embrace the increasing importance of electric transport, we have increased the number of EV charging points by 50% over the last five or more years, and a significant expansion is planned in the coming years.

We are working hard to accelerate the pace of change, while local authorities struggle to keep up with our members’ efforts.

Because electricity cannot meet all our transportation needs, a broader challenge is how to improve our fuel mix.

Our members have been changing the petrol and diesel we sell by adding zero-carbon biofuels which are already preventing 330,000 tonnes of carbon being emitted each year – and we want the Government to go further and mandate doubling the level of zero-carbon biofuel we blend into petrol.

To become carbon neutral, emissions from home heating need to be cut significantly. Some of this will be done through the State’s retrofitting programme, but the cost of heat pumps and deep retrofits are simply out of the reach of many people, and hard-pressed homeowners need options which work and which they can afford.

With this in mind, we will soon launch a pilot project on the use of low carbon liquid fuels which could dramatically reduce emissions in a manner which is cost effective for homeowners and the State alike.

Other exciting developments are underway in the air and maritime sectors.

Cutting-edge innovation in our sector is bringing new types of fuel such as hydrogen within reach of the broader public, and we now stand on the cusp of a transformational era for the industry.

This does not mean that we have all the answers about how to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible. Far from it.

In a rapidly evolving technological environment, it is entirely possible that liquid fuels which will power tomorrow have not yet been developed, or are instead at a very early stage in their evolution. One thing we know for sure is that in order to achieve our climate goals, all of the stakeholders need to continue to work together and to learn from one another.

We are making the major changes needed to make carbon neutrality a reality which works for everyone.

That’s exactly why Fuels for Ireland came into being.

But one thing that will never change is our members’ commitment to fueling Ireland’s future and meeting our customers’ needs: today, tomorrow and long into the future.

Kevin McPartlan is CEO of Fuels for Ireland.