Environment Minister Eamon Ryan wants district heating systems to be deployed swiftly as an alternative
The ban would apply to newly-built homes from next year and to replacement installations in existing homes possibly as soon as 2025.
It comes as it emerged one in five new homes built last year and one in 12 this year to date have fossil-fuel heating systems despite the introduction of regulations meant to encourage the use of clean energy.
Boilers in around half a million homes built during the construction boom from 2000-2010 are also approaching end of life and are due for replacement soon.
Energy and Climate Minister Eamon Ryan said the replacement of fossil fuels with fossil fuels could not continue.
“What we need to do now is make it absolutely clear for people that we are switching away from fossil fuels and switching to better alternatives,” he said.
We have to start switching to alternatives
Tightened energy-efficiency regulations for new builds have prompted a move away from oil and gas but with high levels of insulation and other installations, it is still possible for a new home to get an A-rating even with a gas boiler.
Gas Networks Ireland connected more than 8,000 new domestic customers last year alone.
“If we’re going to meet our climate targets, if we’re going to protect our people from the high gas prices, we have to stop new connections, we have to start switching to alternatives,” Mr Ryan said.
“And when it comes to existing boilers, that whole fleet of boilers in the 25pc of houses that were built between 2000 and 2010, we have to make sure they switch to heat pumps, not to new gas boilers, not to replace fossil with fossil.”
Mr Ryan said district heating, where heat generated by industrial and commercial activities is captured and piped into surrounding homes, would have to be rapidly and widely deployed.
He spoke at a conference of the Irish District Energy Association (IrDEA) which heard that Ireland has the lowest level of district heating in the EU.
“We only have to improve from awful to terrible to make a big difference,” said IrDEA director David Connolly, who said Ireland was starting almost at zero.
He said a recent Danish study found 90pc of the 1.8m homes connected to district heating systems there were completely insulated from the gas price hikes of recent months.
The Climate Action Plan has a target of providing 2.7 terawatt hours of heat from district heating by 2030 – around 6pc of all the heat used by Irish buildings.
Marie Donnelly, chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, said the target needed to increase tenfold in order to attract the overseas companies that were experts in developing district heating systems.
She said: “2.7 isn’t worth their effort. They won’t get into a plane and come and talk to us at 2.7. We have got to say we are going to do 50pc by 2030. It’s achievable.”
Mr Ryan said he was less concerned about targets than proof of delivery.
He said he would be meeting Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan next week to push for progress on the much-delayed plans to heat as many as 80,000 homes and properties in Dublin with the heat from the Poolbeg waste incinerator.
The State has put €20m into the project, the pipes are laid under the Liffey and most of the apartment blocks in the Docklands area were built ready to connect to the facility but nothing has happened in the five years it has been in operation.
“Instead, it’s heating Dublin Bay,” Mr Ryan said.