Many public bodies are becoming much more energy efficient and beginning to deliver significant reductions in carbon emissions, but some are only delivering a fraction of what is required, and missing annual targets.
An evaluation of 331 public bodies and 2,279 schools, representing an annual energy spend of €608 million, found public sector bodies collectively saved €191 million and 667,000 tonnes of “avoided CO2 emissions” in 2017.
The study by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland will be published on Friday by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton, who has highlighted shortcomings in health, education and commercial state bodies.
Since 2009, public sector bodies have made over €1 billion in energy savings and avoided 3.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, the SEAI report finds. These savings have made the public sector 24 per cent more efficient in energy use overall since 2009 – putting it on course to achieve the 33 per cent energy efficiency target by 2020.
“This is a significant achievement but it can be further improved. While some bodies are doing very well, the range of performance varies across public bodies,” Mr Bruton said.
“Of the 34 bodies who use more than 50 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year, 11 have achieved savings of over 30 per cent, but some have not even achieved 10 per cent,” he added. “Further significant progress could be made if health, some areas of education and commercial state bodies improved performance and reached their annual targets.”
A national strategy to encourage and support public sector bodies in achieving their goals was in place, while SEAI was working with his department to make guidance and support available to assist public bodies.
“It’s crucial all departments and bodies engage pro-actively in this process,” Mr Bruton said. “If we want Ireland to become a leader in responding to climate change, it is important that we lead by example and that all of the public sector steps up to the challenge.”
There was a need in the future to require every public body to show its display energy certificate(DEC), similar to the way private houses have a building energy rating (BER) certificate, he said.
“We need to set a new target that is more ambitious than the current 33 per cent by 2020. We need to create a stronger mandate in all our public bodies to step up their focus on climate action.”
SEAI chief executive Jim Gannon said it has provided tools, training and advice to deliver measurable cost reductions and carbon savings in public sector organisations over the past 15 years.
“This includes identifying opportunities, supporting delivery of capital projects, capacity building and best practice sharing.”
He added: “As we now turn towards 2030, we must accelerate activity in the public sector, and seek cost effective ways of achieving even greater results.”
DCU achieved primary energy savings of over 2.8 GWh in 2017 compared to 2016, in addition to launching a plan to develop a carbon- neutral campus.
New high efficiency boilers were installed at its All Hallows Campus, delivering 59 per cent more savings than predicted. An upgrade of existing internal and external lighting in its multi-storey carpark to LEDs, together with occupancy and daylight sensors, exceeded predicted savings by 19 per cent.
In 2017, 10 schools received “medium to deep energy retrofits” in a SEAI partnership with the Department of Education, while 12 central government buildings were retrofitted in partnership with OPW. The total capital cost of the pilots was €8 million, delivering over 4GWh (primary energy) and €250,000 in energy savings.