Journal: Atmospheric Environment: X, vol. 13, 100155, 2022
Electrification of residential heating and investment in building energy efficiency are central pillars of many national strategies to reduce carbon emissions from the built environment sector. Ireland has a strong dependence on oil use for central heating and a substantial share of homes still using solid fuels. The current national strategy calls for the retrofitting of 400,000 home heating systems with heat pumps by 2030, principally replacing oil fired heating systems. Displacing natural gas, oil and solid fuel boilers with heat pumps will have a favourable impact on climate outcomes. However, the impact on air pollutant outcomes is far more favourable when solid fuels are replaced, and the positive impact on ambient air quality is much enhanced where concentrated clusters of solid-fuel use are targeted. This research spatially analyses emissions and air pollutant concentration outcomes for both targeted and non-targeted deployments of heat pumps and shows that a focused deployment of just 3% of the national heat pump target on solid-fuel homes could offer similar progress on climate goals but with a substantial impact in terms of reducing air pollution hot spots. For the Irish residential heating season (October–March), the targeted solid fuel scenario delivers average PM2.5 concentration decreases of 20–34%. This paper shows that these targeted communities are often in areas of relative deprivation, and as such, direct support for fabric retrofitting and heat pump technology installation offers the potential to simultaneously advance climate, air and just transition policy ambitions.