Climate Action Plan

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) is to seek the establishment of an informal stakeholder advisory group to facilitate the implementation of climate plan actions.

The CIF has broadly welcomed the publication of the Government’s ‘Climate Action Plan 2019’ as a very positive statement of intent on behalf of the Government, saying that the plan now needs to be moved quickly towards implementation if its ambitious targets are to be met.

Among the plan’s goals are the retrofitting of 500,000 homes to B2 level, and the installation of heat pumps in 400,000 homes and businesses.

Sean Downey, Director, Specialist Contracting, CIF, says that there are a substantial number of goals in the plan that will take time to deliver hence the need to move quickly.

Climate Plan Actions

“There are 183 actions outlined in the plan,” Sean Downey notes. “Action 43, for example, outlines the need for an analysis of existing retrofit actions and the identification of the optimal mix of deep and medium home energy efficiency upgrades across the country. This analysis will only commence in Q1 2020, resulting in a delivery window for a targeted 500,000 retrofits of close to eight and a half years.” He adds that for any retrofitting scheme to be effective, it must address houses in their entirety from an energy efficiency perspective.

“If the scheme has too narrow of a focus on single aspects of improvement, it will not deliver optimum results for the consumer, the industry, the economy and of course, the environment. Our primary aim must remain the decarbonising of homes.”

The Climate Action Plan 2019 also includes the introduction of legislation to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030, the roll out of a nationwide charging system for electric vehicles, and the banning of gas-fired boilers for new homes after 2025.

If Government estimates are right, the retrofitting of 500,000 homes could quadruple the size of the Irish retrofit market to €600m per annum. At present, 25,000 homes are participating in energy retrofit schemes at an overall estimated value of €150m per annum.

Smart Finance

The Government will introduce ‘smart finance’ and ‘easy payback’ methods to get the 500,000 homes upgraded to B2 level. Examples of this referenced in the plan include a smart finance programme in the United States that enables homeowners to take out ‘Green Mortgages’ or Energy Efficient Mortgages, letting them borrow money to pay for energy-efficient retrofits that may be costly upfront, but save money over the long run. The European Investment Bank’s Smart Finance for Smart Buildings initiative allows financial intermediaries, such as banks, to develop and deploy attractive financial products for the energy renovation of buildings, especially homes.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to the plan, the built environment accounted for 12.7% of Ireland’s greenhouse gases in 2017. It states, “It is important that we improve the energy efficiency of our buildings, including our homes, workplaces and schools, by meeting higher energy performance standards and by increasing retrofit activity. This will not only reduce Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels, but will also improve our living standards by making our buildings more comfortable, healthier, safer, and less costly to heat. We have already had some success in decarbonising our buildings, with emissions falling by 10.3% between 2005 and 2011, and falling again by 11.3% between 2011 and 2017. The scale of continued reduction beyond 2011 is in contrast to most other sectors in Ireland.” The plan also states that Ireland faces several challenges in reducing emissions from buildings. Irish homes use 7% more energy than the EU average and emit 58% more CO2. Irish buildings are 70% reliant on fossil fuels, including oil-fired boilers; and over 80% of homes and other buildings assessed for their BER have a rating of C or worse.

Advisory Group

The next step for the CIF is to seek the establishment of an informal advisory group comprising industry, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), and the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment with a view to implementation. “The key will be giving certainty to construction companies and workers that there is a pipeline of funding along with support for upskilling,” comments Sean Downey. “If this is in place, the Irish construction industry will be able to develop the capacities and capabilities to deliver on the targets of the Climate Action Plan.”

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