The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 sets out the national objective of transitioning to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy in the period up to 2050. It requires the publication of a national low carbon transition and mitigation plan every five years. In this regard, my Department is required to identify and develop sectoral mitigation measures for the built environment.
Ireland’s National Mitigation Plan published in 2017 takes account of the measures to be implemented in the buildings sector that are required to meet the EU's energy related targets. These measures include reductions in the use of fossil fuel systems and an increase in the use of renewable energy.
It should be noted that my Department has lead responsibility for implementing the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. This Directive sets the requirements at an EU level for Member States to improve the energy performance of buildings and to make an important contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Article 9(1) of the Directive requires Member States to ensure that by 31 December 2020, all new buildings are nearly zero-energy buildings.
The Directive defines a Nearly Zero Energy Building, or “NZEB”, as a building that has a very high energy performance and that the nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including energy from renewable sources produced on-site or nearby. This definition was incorporated in the Building Regulations 1997 – 2017 last year through the Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2017.
My Department has progressively updated Part L of the Building Regulations, relating to the Conservation of Fuel and Energy in Dwellings, over the last decade in order to improve the energy and carbon dioxide emissions performance of all new dwellings to achieve these “NZEB” performance levels. These incremental improvements have effectively eased the transition and minimized the additional effort required to achieve the NZEB performance for dwellings.
In 2007, Part L was revised to achieve a 40% improvement in the energy and carbon dioxide emissions performance over 2005 performance levels for new dwellings and, in addition, a mandatory renewables requirement for new dwellings was also introduced. This review also introduced a requirement that new and replacement fossil fuel boilers should be energy efficient condensing boilers, where practical.
In 2011, Part L of the Building Regulations was further revised to achieve an improvement of 60% in the energy and carbon dioxide emissions performance over 2005 standard for all new dwellings.
In addition, I have recently published a public consultation on further improvements to Part L of the Building Regulations to achieve the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive NZEB performance requirements. My Department is currently reviewing the results of this consultation, and when implemented, it will represent an improvement of 70% in energy and carbon dioxide emissions performance over 2005 standards for all new dwellings commencing construction from early 2019, subject to transition arrangements.
Under current regulations a typical new dwelling is built to an A3 Building Energy Rating (BER). The new Part L performance requirement will equate to a typical new dwelling having a BER of A2. The amended Part L Building Regulations will stipulate that new dwellings can achieve the new standards by making provisions that represent : -
- A 70% improvement in energy efficiency for new dwellings (relative to 2005 base year standards)
- A 70% reduction in CO2 emissions (again relative to the 2005 base year standards), and
- 20% renewables as a percentage of total building energy use.
These requirements make it more attractive for builders and homeowners to further incorporate renewable technologies and move away from traditional fossil fuels.
It is estimated that the cumulative improvements to regulations mean that a dwelling built to the 2011 regulations requires 90% less energy than the equivalent dwelling built in 1978 to deliver the same standards of heat, hot water and light. Very significant progress has, therefore, been made in this area, even before the new initiatives outlined above.
Arising from further improvements to Part L, the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy is expected to accelerate and will contribute significantly to meeting Ireland's climate change commitments.