Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (448)

Richard Bruton


448. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Education the actions planned to improve the energy performance of schools in view of the adoption of a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by 2050; if there will be new options for older buildings to adopt phased improvements; and her plans to become a partner in initiatives, for example, better energy communities in which a co-ordinated approach to a range of public and private buildings can be taken. [8732/21]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Government’s Climate Action Plan will outline how energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions targets are to be achieved. This is due to be published in mid 2021.

My Department is at the forefront of design with respect to sustainable energy in school buildings and this performance has been recognised at both National and International level with sustainable energy awards for excellence in Design and Specification.

My Department’s Technical Guidance Documents set the benchmark for sustainable design in school buildings with a clear focus on energy efficiency and they are based on solid energy research projects.

Schools that are designed and built in accordance with the Department’s schools technical guidance documents have been achieving A3 Building Energy Ratings since 2009 with current schools typically achieving up to 20% higher performance than required by the current Building Regulations, along with 10% of primary energy provided via photovoltaics and infrastructure provision for electric vehicle charging.

All new technologies and approaches are tested to ensure compatibility with school design and operational requirements. Successful and repeatable results are then incorporated into all new school designs and refurbishments. The Departments policy is supported by a strong research programme with forty nine research projects at various stages including the energy website which is a joint partnership with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

My Department and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications established a jointly funded pathfinder programme with the SEAI, testing and demonstrating energy efficiency and decarbonisation retrofit approaches. This pathfinder is a great example of collaboration ensuring the deployment of new design approaches and technologies are introduced to the educational environment on an evidence based approach.

The pathfinder is paving the way for, and informing, a much larger national schools programme for the energy retrofit of schools from 2023 onwards as included in the NDP. It is facilitating research on a range of typical retrofit options, which will have been tried and tested.