We are very grateful for the opportunity to discuss our research findings with the committee. As part of our work we support several Departments with our analysis and the committee's meetings with them have highlighted that. The committee's work is both very timely and important. One of the things we will show in our analysis is that the lack of political leadership is one of the reasons we are in the current position. I do not mean just Government leadership. If the committee can achieve cross-Oireachtas consensus on urgent climate action, that would be a key requirement for Ireland to move forward from a laggard position to a leadership position.
I would like to reiterate an invitation to visit the centre given by Mark Ferguson from Science Foundation Ireland, SFI, when he attended the committee. I am delighted to invite members to visit us at the MaREI Centre, if timing allows, to see some of the work that we do and some of the opportunities associated with the energy transition.
I will turn to my presentation, which highlights some of the research findings on climate action. The key policy insights are the headline outcomes. We have introduced some successful policy measures in this country, and I will touch on them, but they are not enough and they are not across the full gambit of the emissions spectrum. We have a gap to our mandatory 2030 target that is quantified at 100 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. I will show where that comes from. Early and sustained action in climate change mitigation is essential and requires political leadership. The energy transition requires everything to be addressed. We have a significant challenge and it requires efficiency, reduced consumption, bioenergy, renewable electricity and carbon capture and storage. There are many elements to the energy transition and one of the challenges is that we tend to focus on a few individual things and that is partly the reason we are in the current situation.
I ask the committee not to forget the 28% of households that experience energy poverty. That is one of the reasons we do our analysis from a least-cost approach. We see a lot of technical guidance being provided to communities for community development and community energy, which is great. That is essential, but the societal capacity that needs to be built is critical and community development approaches are essential in that.
The mission of MaREI is to advance energy and marine research in order to facilitate, underpin and provide evidence for the energy transition. A key part of that is the policy context but also societal engagement. Those are topics that we will come back to.
We have seven different research areas. As well as being the director of the centre, I lead the area on energy policy and modelling. That is where we do the number crunching for climate action. We also have significant research capacity and activity under way in marine renewable energy technologies, offshore wind energy, wave energy and tidal energy. Bioenergy has significant untapped potential. We also have a particular focus on energy management and efficiency in industry.
Most of our work is nationally focused but we have done some work internationally. We have been informing the delivery of the Paris Agreement, which was agreed in December 2015. It was a political agreement and at the time there was not much analysis available as to what was required to deliver it, so we undertook some analysis on what would be required in an Irish context. We fed that into a book that I edited which captured case studies from countries across the world and that was referred to recently in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, report on how we can achieve the transition to a 1.5° Celsius world.
Another area we have been working on is informing EU policy. In 2014 the EU decided that a minimum target for 2030 for the EU would be to achieve 27% of its energy from renewable sources. We did some analysis with the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, to see if that could be increased and one of the recent decisions that was made in the summer of this year was to increase that target for 2030 from 27% to 32%. That is where we have contributed internationally in terms of policy development but most of our focus has been national.
In 2013 we produced the first low carbon energy roadmap for Ireland. That fed into the discussions. I was at one of the Oireachtas committees around the time the climate legislation was being developed. We subsequently did some work focusing on other aspects of energy policy, including energy poverty and energy security. That fed into the White Paper on energy that was published in 2015.
We did some work then to inform the national mitigation plan that was published last year. We also did some work on informing the Government's negotiations with Brussels about what should be Ireland's ambition and targets for 2030.
The two most recent analyses have been to inform the national energy and climate plan for the Department and to look at a higher ambition strategy for Ireland, associated with the forthcoming all-of-Government action plan. That is some of the analysis and how it feeds into policy decisions.
We have more than 61 million tonnes in annual greenhouse gas emissions. Over a quarter of that is associated with the emissions trading scheme, ETS, which includes emissions associated with electricity generation and large industry. The rest are non-ETS emissions, which are agriculture, transport, heating in our homes and in other buildings. That is what we have the current mandatory target for emissions reduction for, for 2020 and 2030. This shows where those emissions come from in detail. Electricity production is a significant part of our emissions but does not form part of our non-ETS obligatory target under the 2020 and 2030 EU directives. We can see that the non-ETS emissions relate to cars, trucks, homes and cows. Those are the bigger elements of our non-ETS emissions.
We have done very well in some areas in the last years. The carbon intensity of our electricity has halved since 1990. Every kilowatt hour of electricity we use results in approximately half the emissions it did in 1990. Some 30% of our electricity now comes from wind, up from 7% in 2005. We talk about leadership sometimes. We are world-leading with wind energy integration. In transport, the carbon intensity of new cars is one third lower than it was in 2008 due to the change in the car tax regime. Our biofuel obligation is not talked about much but it is probably our biggest result in the last number of years in contributing to our non-ETS emissions reduction target, with 300,000 tonnes a year. We have approximately 4,000 electric vehicles and 26,000 hybrid cars on the road. With regard to heating, we have introduced significant building regulations and our new homes now have 70% better energy performance than in 2005. We also have grant schemes available for people to retrofit their homes and 390,000 homes have availed of these. It is not that we have done nothing. We have done a number of things.
On where that leaves our numbers, a graph in my presentation shows EPA projections and historical analysis of our non-ETS emissions. We can see that, broadly, it was flat for the first years after 2005. It dropped in the recession. Since the recovery, we have been in an expansion with regard to emissions. It is estimated that by 2020, we will be close to where we were in 2005. The way in which compliance with that target is achieved is not specifically through achieving the 20% reduction but by staying within the carbon budget of 338 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. During the recession years, our emissions were lower than what was in our targets so we were able to bank them. Since the recovery, our emissions have grown so our current gap to the target is 17 million tonnes. When we talk about fines, what is generally meant is purchasing compliance and we are purchasing 17 million tonnes of credit. These numbers that have come about, whether €150 million or €600 million, relate to the purchase of those emissions. That is the current estimate of the gap to target.
Why are we so far off target if we have these policies and measures in place? The first area is growth and politics. There has been a 16% growth in the population of Ireland and a 30% growth in the economy since 2005. This is the new revised measure of economic growth, not GDP, which would be much higher. Unfortunately, political leadership on climate action has been lacking. We have had significant changes in electricity but they do not contribute to this target so they do not appear. Moneypoint, peat plants, wind and solar are important to talk about but they do not contribute to that mandatory target. Despite what we have done on transport, there has been a 24% increase in the annual distance driven since 2005 so we are driving much more and we have no policy measures relating to freight. Freight is like a sleeping giant. With regard to heating, we had great building regulations but we have not been building many houses so those have not kicked in. The retrofits that have taken place have largely been shallow, including people putting insulation into their attics, which is important, but there is still significant energy wastage in our buildings. We have not had any support for renewable heat until recently. If we look forward to 2030, we can see that the target is more ambitious. It is 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. We have a set of annual targets, which effectively sets a carbon budget over the period 2021 to 2030. One can see the difference on display between that line and the EPA projections. The gap is in the order of 100 million tonnes. That is our current gap to target in the latest official national projections from the EPA.
I will address our key findings. Since this is a carbon budget, rather than just what we achieve in 2030, anything we do in 2021 is sustained across the period. If we get 1 million tonnes in a saving in 2021 which is maintained over that period, it contributes 10 million tonnes to our gap to our target. Early action is important. We need a more urgent focus on renewable heat and transport. Most of our discussions on renewable energy have centred on renewable electricity, including wind and solar photovoltaics. We have not had the same level of discussion on biogas, biofuels, biomass and heat pumps, which are other areas that can contribute to renewable heat and transport. Our heat and transport account for 80% of our energy use. Electricity accounts for 20% of our energy use. While we get 30% of our electricity from renewable sources, that is only 6% of our overall energy. If we really want to expand our renewable energy, which we need to, and to meet our emissions reduction targets, we need to focus on renewable heat and transport.
Another finding from our work on 2030 relates to a number of measures in the national development plan focusing on electric vehicles, heat pumps and people upgrading and retrofitting their homes. These are essential. It is hard to see how they can deliver a significant amount to our target for 2030 because these things take time and there is a cumulative effect of somebody making an individual decision which then transfers outwards. Those things will take time. They are essential but they are likely to contribute more to the period post-2030 than to our target for 2030. That is not to say we should not be doing them, since they are important.
With regard to 2030, there has been much discussion in this committee about carbon tax, which currently raises approximately €400 million per annum for the economy. We did some analysis for the Citizens' Assembly. If that was doubled, there would be approximately €400 million more per annum. Using €35 million of that to offset energy poverty would be important. Increasing the fuel allowance by €4 per tonne for the approximately 400,000 households in receipt of fuel allowance would mean that the carbon tax would be offset by that increase in payment. It would only knock €35 million off the €400 million and is an important point to raise about energy poverty.
With regard to 2050, we did an analysis that I mentioned earlier which fed into some of the global discussions. When we look at 2050, one can see that the steepness of what we need to do is phenomenally challenging. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that we have 12 years to go, which is the kind of thing that comes through in this analysis. We are on the brink of missing the opportunity to stay within 1.5° C.
Some of our analysis on 2050 suggests that the time to act is now. When we look at 2050, there is a danger that the measures needed to achieve those targets are not put in place now. Electric vehicles, EVs, are a good example and we had a target in 2007 to have 10% of our fleet electric by 2020. That means that in two years we should have 230,000 EVs on the road but we have 4,000 at the minute. It is important that when long-term plans or ambitions are put in place that the activity is started now.
Some of the other findings from our 2050 analysis tell us that there are no silver bullets. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about how we tend to focus on specific issues. Homes and EVs are one initiative and wind and solar energy are another. These are all important but we need other initiatives. We need to sort out freight. Our analysis shows that if efficiency and electricity are sorted in terms of renewable electricity and the electrification of heat and transport, that will get us about halfway there. There is still another 50% that needs something else. There is much less discussion on biofuels, biogas and carbon capture and storage and it is important that these discussions happen now in the context of timing.
Near zero carbon, zero carbon or even negative carbon electricity are needed to achieve the ambition of mitigation by 2050. Significant reductions in carbon dioxide from electricity and other sectors are needed but we need to have some discussion on carbon capture and storage in that context. If we only rely on wind and solar photovoltaics, PV, there is an energy security consideration and there are cost considerations so we need to have those discussions and develop approaches where we can move towards near zero, zero or negative emissions in electricity and these will not be easy discussions. This transition will be difficult. Sometimes simplistic solutions are mooted and put forward but pretending it is simple only makes it harder.
I reiterate that 2050 is not just about electricity. Parts of the energy system are discussed less such as aviation, maritime shipping, freight and the heavy goods industry where much of our energy use takes place so we need to find solutions for same. Within the MaREI Centre, we have an active biogas research group focusing on energy from waste, grass and algae and there is also a need to look at energy from wood. In the short term, this would not be wood for electricity but it would be biomass for heat and transport, using liquid and gaseous biofuels.
I refer to community energy. Energy citizenship is becoming more accepted but energy communities are struggling, according to our experience and our research and we have conducted transdisciplinary research with communities to try to understand how they are grappling with the challenges they face. Intermediaries such as the Tidy Towns and the GAA would not traditionally be associated with the energy transition, which could be tapped into. Even there, supports are needed to help them to do that. Infrastructural supports are emerging but they need more coherence. Much of the focus is on technical support but community development approaches to build societal capacity are also needed. This is particularly challenging when we think of the timing and that notion of 12 years and we have to build capacity in society in that time to enable a response. This is a difficult circle to square.
We expect a lot from volunteers and we give them grants to commission consultants to do work for them but the volunteers are struggling to meet their day-to-day needs. Community energy does not guarantee community acceptability and that is another important point. There are examples of projects that have been developed with a community energy approach and have struggled to get that acceptability. It is unhelpful to talk up community energy while these barriers exist.
I will finish by summarising the key policy insights. We have introduced some measures but not enough and not throughout the energy system. I have not talked about agriculture and that is an important aspect that I intended to mention at the start. Our focus is on energy but agriculture comprises two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions or half of the non-ETS emissions. It has come up a number of times in the deliberations so our gap to target is 94 million tonnes and I showed where that comes from. Early and sustained action and political leadership are essential and the energy transition is about a full range of measures, not just a few. The people who are experiencing energy poverty should not be forgotten. We do not want to introduce measures that will exacerbate energy poverty and we need more community development approaches in our community energy efforts.