• Tom Halpin
  • 4 min read

Our new year’s resolution to each other: Let’s start taking GIANT steps in our sustainable energy endeavours

It’s been said before, that we all have a part to play in our sustainable energy transition “and that we can start with some small steps”. Ordinarily that might make sense. If it’s something unknown or untested then it is reasonable to move slowly until we learn more and gain experience. After all, that’s how we all learned to walk, ride a bike, and play our favourite sport.

There was a time when small steps in climate action were fine

20 or 30 years ago climate change was already well understood by the scientific community but not so widely known or understood by society in general. Against that backdrop, it was perfectly alright to start people on the bottom rung of the ladder – getting them to turn off lights when leaving the room, draught proofing the odd window or door and replacing an incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent lamp or CFL. Ahh, do you remember CFLs? Truth is these were all excellent ways to save small amounts of energy, emphasis on small. Plus, the changes were pretty much pain free. A CFL may have seemed like an expensive luxury at the time, but it typically paid for itself within a year.

Time is running out

However, the evidence of where our changing climate is heading is all around us. Here in Ireland we are experiencing more frequent extreme weather events. (Storm Brendan is battering the country as I type this.) Abroad, every summer seems to bring a new record temperature. And then there are the unprecedented wildfires all over the world. The window of opportunity is closing fast. This rapidly worsening crisis demands dramatic changes in how we use energy. Simply put, the time for small steps has passed.

For 2020 I am urging that we all look at the giant steps we can make – or at least steps that feel more like giant steps. We need our own personal changes to feel more substantial, more stretching, more difficult than ever before. No pain, no gain as they say. We need to act now for the many nations around the world who will suffer far more than Ireland as we head towards 2oC global temperature rise.

Some ideas for 2020

Let me make it less daunting – this is no longer new, unknown or untested territory. There is a phenomenal array of solutions to make our homes more energy efficient. Wall and attic insulation for virtually every situation – tick. High performance renewable heating systems – tick. Triple glazed windows – tick. Smart heating controls – tick. The list goes on.

Won’t that be expensive you might ask? Yes, it might be, depending on what and how much you get done. However, in many instances there are generous Government grants available from SEAI which can make the upgrades more affordable. Ask yourself, what else do you ever buy for your house that will pay for itself in cost savings? Not only that, your home will be a lot more comfortable. And most importantly, you will substantially reduce your harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

So, let’s make a new year’s resolution to each other that we will start making giant steps in our move to reduce our energy use. We will benefit ourselves, benefit our families and neighbours. And as part of a global effort we will benefit those far more vulnerable to the threat of climate change.

Let's make 2020 the year where we start taking GIANT steps in our sustainable energy journey.

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Giant steps

Here’s a few giant steps we might consider in 2020:

Get a Building Energy Rating or BER: Find out just how efficient your home is and set an improvement goal.
Insulate your home thoroughly: Stop letting your valuable heat just seep out of your home.
Quit on fossil fuels: If you have a well-insulated house, consider a renewable heating system like a heat pump or solar thermal panels.
Buy an EV: Walking, cycling and taking public transport are less carbon intensive than driving. However, these are not options for everyone. If you must drive and you are thinking about a new car, give some serious thought to an electric vehicle or EV. You might be surprised at just how great they are to drive and how they suit most people’s daily commuting needs. You can now purchase a second-hand EV at a reasonable price.

At SEAI we are here to help you every GIANT step of the way. We have all the advice you need to make the changes and there are plenty of generous Government funded grants available.

Make 2020 the year you #ActOnClimate. And remember #YourEnergyMatters.


Tom Halpin | Head of Communications

Tom Halpin is Head of Communications at the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, with responsibility for strategic communications, corporate positioning and programme marketing.  A graduate of UCD with a degree in Electronic Engineering, and a Diploma in Marketing, Tom has worked for 25 years in the energy sector having joined the, then, Irish Energy Centre in 1995.