The Programme for Government contains a commitment to further improve the energy efficiency of new buildings with a view to moving towards carbon neutral homes in the longer term. In tandem with this commitment, Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings requires EU Member States, inter alia, to ensure that all new buildings will be nearly zero-energy by 31 December 2020 (or by 31 December 2018 in the case of new buildings owned and occupied by public authorities). The Directive broadly defines a ‘nearly zero-energy building’ as a building with a high energy performance where the very low amount of energy required should, to a very significant extent, be met by energy from renewable sources, including renewable energy produced onsite or nearby.
Against this background, Ireland has been making significant progress in terms of both improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon dioxide emissions within the built environment. The statutory minimum energy performance standards (including insulation requirements) for dwellings are addressed under Part L of the building Regulations and the accompanying Technical Guidance Document (TGD L Dwellings). Taking the energy efficiency requirements established in 2005 as the benchmark, the Building Regulations (Part L Amendment) Regulations 2007 set the requirements necessary to achieve a 40% improvement (over the 2005 standards) in the energy and carbon performance of new dwellings. These regulations came into effect on 1 July 2008 subject to certain transitional arrangements.Energy performance requirements were further upgraded under the Building Regulations (Part L Amendment) Regulations 2011, and the accompanying TGD L Dwellings 2011 sets out the current minimum energy performance and insulation requirements. These regulations came into effect on 1 December 2011 and build on the substantial improvements already introduced under the 2007 regulations by delivering a 60% aggregate improvement (relative to 2005 standards) in both the energy and carbon performance of new buildings. Part L 2011 marks an important step on the road to carbon neutrality and puts Ireland at the forefront of EU Member States in terms of energy efficiency standards for new dwellings. All the signs indicate that Irish builders and manufacturers continue to innovate and adapt their approaches and products to meet new standards as they continue to evolve progressively over time. This is important in terms of continuing the development of the market for energy efficient buildings and products domestically while also increasing the considerable potential that exists for high energy efficiency products in export markets. The on-going review of regulations is important in maintaining the momentum that has already been created in this regard.
My Department is also working on the development of a framework for achieving a nearly zero energy framework for dwellings in order to meet our obligations under Directive 2010/31/EU within the prescribed timeframe. It is anticipated that the nearly zero energy framework for dwellings will require further amendments to the building regulations over and above the recent Part L 2011 requirements.