I thank the Chairman and members for the invitation to attend to brief the joint committee on the activities of the OPW with respect to climate action. There are two areas of its work that are particularly relevant, namely, estate portfolio management in mitigating the effects of climate change by increasing the energy efficiency of the public building stock and our flood risk management function which involves adaptation measures undertaken as a result of climate change.
The projections indicate that climate change will have a considerable impact on flood risk in Ireland. A rise in mean sea levels, together with increased storm frequency, is being observed and the upward trend is projected to continue in the future, increasing the risk to coastal communities' infrastructure and assets. It is projected that the number of days per year with heavy rainfall will increase, with potentially wetter winters, which could lead to an increase in flooding from rivers and flash floods in urban areas when intense rainfall events overwhelm the storm water drainage networks. The projected wetter winters, particularly in the west, could give rise to increased groundwater flooding associated with turloughs. These potential impacts of climate change are likely to have serious consequences for Ireland where cities and most main towns are located, either on the coast or alongside rivers.
Within the remit of the 2012 national climate change adaptation framework the OPW prepared a flood risk management climate change sectoral adaptation plan in 2015. The plan summarised the relevant signs of climate change and the then state of knowledge of its impact on flooding and flood risk in Ireland and outlined flood risk management adaptation practice in Ireland at the time. In May this year the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works and flood relief, Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran, launched the flood risk management plans. They are the final output from the national catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, programme. It was the largest study of flood risk ever undertaken by the State and assessed the risk in 300 communities that were home to approximately 3 million citizens or two thirds of the population and 80% of the properties potentially at risk from the primary sources of flooding, namely, rivers and the sea. While these 300 communities included all of the cities and almost all major towns, approximately half of the 300 areas studied were small, often rural communities with a population of less than 2,000 people.
Key findings of the CFRAM programme were that while some 34,500 properties within the 300 communities had been identified as being at risk from a significant flood event, there was an economic basis to invest in flood relief schemes to protect 95% of these properties to the 100-year standard for fluvial, or river, schemes and the 200-year standard for coastal schemes. To do this, we need to design and construct another 118 flood relief schemes, in addition to the 42 completed and the 33 under way. An investment of up to €1 billion is required to accomplish this and that funding has been committed by the Government under the national development plan to 2027. The OPW is doubling its annual investment in flood risk management to €100 million in 2021.
The CFRAM programme and the preparation of flood maps included the assessment of risk for two potential future scenarios taking into account the potential impacts of climate change. The future scenarios include a rise in mean sea levels of 0.5 m and 1 m and an increase in peak flood flows in rivers of 20% and 30% for the two scenarios, respectively. The flood maps for the 300 communities assessed under the CFRAM programme, including the future scenario flood maps, were published in May this year on our publicly accessible web portal, www.floodinfo.ie, and are being made available to the local authorities and other stakeholders to inform the preparation of their local and sectoral adaptation plans. They can also assist in future planning decisions and emergency response planning. The CFRAM maps compliment the strategic flood maps which cover the entire coastline of the country and which were prepared as part of the Irish coastal protection strategy study. The maps which also include maps for the two potential future scenarios are under review to take into account the most recent available observed data and also the coastal wave environment. Together with the local authorities, since May the OPW has been moving to the detailed development and implementation of the 118 measures. It includes further detailed assessment of adaptability to future climate change. Hence, each scheme will be subject to an assessment within its particular context and, as appropriate, provisions will be made in the design and construction of the schemes to cater for potential future changes. While substantial work has been done in assessing the potential impacts of climate change on flooding and flood risk, the OPW will continue to engage across sectors of government and with the climate science research community to help to inform and monitor the evolving state of knowledge of climate change.
I turn to estate portfolio management. The OPW's property role is largely focused on providing property solutions for central government Departments and other State organisations. In 2009, as part of the European Union's 2020 climate and energy objectives, Ireland set a national target of 20% for improvements in energy efficiency. While the overall national target was set at 20%, Ireland set a more ambitious target of 33% for improvements in energy efficiency within the public sector. The purpose in setting a more challenging public sector target was to demonstrate leadership on the issue of energy efficiency for the economy and society. The public sector energy efficiency strategy published by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in 2017 set out the very significant achievements of the public sector to date in improving its energy efficiency, with savings of 21% reported in 2016. However, the report also identified a need for step change in activity to reach the Government's target of 33% by 2020. The built environment contributes significantly to total energy use, at in the region of 40% of overall consumption. The savings reported for the public sector to date represent a considerable achievement. A significant proportion of the savings have been realised through behavioural change, the elimination of energy waste and low-cost capital projects. There is, however, a finite limit to how much can be achieved by these measures and once it is reached, capital investment will be necessary to make further savings, particularly in areas such as larger scale projects, including near-zero energy, new builds and the deep retrofit of existing buildings.
The OPW devised and implemented a staff energy awareness programme, "Optimising Power@Work" which is a play on the acronym "OPW", in our portfolio of buildings. The level of engagement by staff has been exceptional and considerable savings have resulted, with a relatively low level of investment. The majority of existing inherited buildings in the OPW's portfolio provide accommodation for the central government Departments, agencies and the Garda, but there are also specialist facilities such as data centres, laboratories and museums. A good indication of the overall energy efficiency of the existing buildings can be found in analysing their operational BERs and display energy certificates. The vast majority, or 79%, have a "C" or "D" rating, as members will see in the slides provided. At the upper end of the scale, only 10%, unfortunately, have a "B" rating or better, while at the lower end, 11% have an "E" rating or worse. The majority of the very poor performing buildings have exceptional electrical loads, for example, large data centres or historic properties.
The OPW has developed a three-step process to increase energy efficiency in our building portfolio. Step 1 involves behavioural change, the elimination of waste and the optimisation of existing controls. The OPW has achieved average energy savings of approximately 18% through the Optimising Power@Work scheme. Launched in 2008, the campaign operates in 280 large central government buildings, covering approximately 80% of energy usage across the entire OPW property portfolio. The main focus of the programme is on encouraging behavioural change among building occupants, optimising existing control systems and eliminating energy wastage. There are three fundamental elements of the campaign, the first of which is technology. One needs the availability of real-time energy reports from energy monitoring equipment installed in each participating building. The second element is specialist resources. This means having energy specialists working with energy teams in each building. The third and most important element is staff engagement. This means the active involvement of staff in the energy teams operating in each building. In 2014 the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment provided €9 million in funding to expand the programme into the wider public sector. While the OPW is leading the campaign, the service requirement is largely outsourced to specialist private sector companies. The public sector campaign is now operating in 16 large acute care hospitals, two universities, five institutes of technology, five local authorities, nine prisons, five specialist facilities and three HSE estates administration buildings.
The second step involves upgrading mechanical and electrical systems. There are significant energy savings to be achieved by upgrading existing mechanical and electrical systems, particularly in older buildings. Most buildings will benefit from upgrading existing lighting systems, boilers and controls and these interventions can be carried out with minimum disruption to the normal operations of the occupants. Typical savings of 8% to 10% can be expected, with payback periods of eight to 12 years. In 2017 the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment provided €3.5 million in funding for an energy efficiency retrofit pilot programme in central government buildings. The programme was a joint venture between the Department, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and the OPW. Last year 11 large buildings were upgraded, mainly through lighting and control projects. Funding has been increased this year to €9.5 million. As a result, energy retrofit works are under way in 33 large buildings. This year's retrofit programme includes boiler, control system and some fabric upgrades which will lead to significant electrical and thermal fuel savings. The OPW will closely monitor the levels of savings achieved through the existing monitoring and reporting system.
In addition, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has provided €1 million in funding through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland for a pilot energy works programme in a selection of smaller buildings.
As part of this initiative, fabric, lighting and boiler upgrades are being carried out in 28 smaller central government buildings. Substantial energy savings are being achieved in the buildings that were retrofitted in 2017 where we have the data. Typically, electrical usage on lighting has been reduced by 60% to 70%, with overall electrical loads in those buildings reduced by 20% to 40%. In order to meet the Government's public sector energy targets, substantial investment to expand the energy retrofit programme into all large buildings within the OPW portfolio during 2019 and 2020 will be needed.
The third step is deep retrofit. Deep retrofit is a combination of major fabric upgrades and mechanical and electrical, M and E, systems upgrades. Such works yield very significant reductions in energy usage. In effect, deep retrofit involves stripping the building right back to its bare structure and installing very high-performing insulation and glazing systems, improving air tightness and installing high-efficiency mechanical and electrical systems. It is not practical to carry out these works while buildings are occupied. This type of intervention is only considered where it is opportune, that is, when the building is being vacated for some reason. The OPW has a number of buildings in the project pipeline that will be suitable for deep retrofit, such as Tom Johnson House, in Beggar's Bush, Ballsbridge, and 22 Clare Street, both office refurbishments that are planned.
A key part of the State's portfolio managed by the OPW relates to heritage sites, buildings, parks and gardens. The conservation and restoration works within these sites are undertaken with an emphasis both on conservation standards and energy conservation. The ability to upgrade the energy efficiency of a historic structure while maintaining the appropriate conservation standards can be seen in recently completed projects such as the refurbishment works to the south block of Government Buildings, Merrion Street.
The energy performance of buildings directive requires EU member states to ensure that after 31 December of this year, all new buildings occupied and owned by public authorities are nearly zero-energy buildings, NZEBs. The directive provides that the public sector must lead by example in this regard. Part L, concerning buildings other than dwellings, of the revised Irish building regulations was published in 2017. However, in order to satisfy the requirement after 31 December 2018 that all new buildings occupied and owned by public authorities be NZEBs, an interim public sector performance specification was published on 1 January 2017. This involved the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the OPW and the SEAI working together to formulate the specification. The OPW is currently designing all new buildings to NZEB standard. Our design teams are carrying out considerable work to ensure compliance with the new requirements, especially in respect of on-site renewable technologies such as photovoltaics, heat pumps, solar thermal etc. The OPW has maintained a long-standing tradition of building design based on sustainability and energy efficiency, from the publication of the Green Design: Sustainable Building for Ireland standard in 1996 to the recent completion of a number of building programmes. These programmes include seven courthouse projects across the country, three large-scale Garda divisional or regional headquarter buildings and the OPW schools programme, all of which achieved a BER rating of A3. Moving forward, under the National Development Plan 2018-2027, the OPW is charged with the delivery of a number of large-scale building projects, the design and construction of which will require compliance with the NZEB standard. In particular, the forensic science laboratories at the Backweston campus, County Kildare; the Garda security and crime operations centre on Military Road, Dublin 8; and the Leeson Lane office development will all be NZEBs.
In summary, the OPW has completed under the national CFRAM programme a detailed assessment of current and potential future flood risk. We are implementing a €1 billion programme of investment in flood risk schemes to protect people and property, taking into account the increases in flood risk that climate change can bring. The OPW is playing a leading role in Ireland's compliance with public sector targets by ensuring that buildings within the property portfolio managed by the OPW are designed to comply with energy efficiency standards. Substantial work has been done to date on energy efficiency in central government buildings, significant savings have been achieved and the OPW will continue to work with our clients to help them maximise their energy efficiency. To continue to make these improvements, a significant capital investment to retrofit the remainder of the OPW's building stock will be required over the coming years.