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Minister Naughten's Speech at SEAI Deep Retrofit Conference

Minister Denis Naughten announces Deep Retrofit Scheme will offer 95% rate of subvention for voluntary housing association homes and homes in energy poverty.


 

SEAI Deep Retrofit Conference, Aviva Stadium

Wednesday 21 June 2017

 
Introduction

Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you Jim for the introduction and for putting together this conference.

The Department that I lead - the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is the Department of Efficiency. It’s about using the natural resources that we have in a sustainable manner to drive change, transform rural Ireland, support employment and protect our people and our planet for future generations. My job is to provide the leadership through policies and programmes that translate efficiency aspiration into actual action. Action is the most important word in the title of my Department.

Just like electricity unlocking the potential of a young country when Ardnacrusha was opened 90 years ago, broadband will unlock the full potential of Europe’s youngest population to facilitate the exploitation and innovation of ideas that are untapped in every single community in Ireland. Today we are rolling out high speed broadband across Ireland at the rate of one home every minute of every working day – the vast majority of that is happening in rural Ireland.

Why am I talking about broadband at an energy efficiency conference? The big growth area now in technology is the Internet of Things – connecting ordinary everyday items to the internet, right from cookers to kettles.

There are 500 million items connected to the internet today. By 2020 that figure will rise significantly to 50,000 million items. That’s 600 new items connected to the internet every second between now and 2020. That provides us with huge potential – to turn off and on heating; to make smarter use of energy. Energy efficiency and Climate Action are inextricably linked. Using less energy, and using it more efficiently, is the most cost effective and accessible way for us all to take action on climate change.
It has often been said the cheapest barrel of oil is the one that we don’t burn.

In 2015 Ireland relied on high emissions and imported fossil fuels to meet over 88% of our energy needs. That’s half a million euro every single hour. That’s a cost we cannot afford in cash terms, and which our planet cannot afford at all. Energy efficiency is economic investment. It is social action. It is climate action. It’s the cultural change which is ultimately essential to combat climate change. Our challenge is not the false difference between Pittsburgh and Paris. It is the real challenge which every parish and townland across this country faces, not in competition with, but in solidarity with the world.

Our homes are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve Ireland’s long term climate and energy goals we need to enable more households to engage in deeper renovations of their homes and that’s what we’re about here today.

Since the SEAI grants for energy efficiency were launched 7 years ago a lot has been achieved. One in five homes in the country have been upgraded.

Energy efficiency has also started to filter into mainstream consciousness. Estate agents have told me that after price and location, the energy efficiency of a property is often the first question prospective buyers ask.

We can even see it in house prices as research in both Ireland and the UK has proven that a more energy efficient property attracts a significant price premium over a less efficient one!

While this progress is a great start, ultimately it is no more than that, a start. Of those people who have upgraded their home, only a small number of those have opted for a deep upgrade. But there are 1.7 million homes in Ireland and almost every single one of these will require a deep upgrade if Ireland is to have any chance of reaching our ambitious climate and energy goals.

My hope for this new scheme is that it will help us to learn how we can persuade people to invest in their homes and what solutions we need to put in place to make it easy for them to do so. It is an example of the new kind citizen-led, evidence based policy that I want to promote and which is necessary to bring people with us as we meet the climate change challenge.

Principles of the new scheme

We are setting ambitious goals for this Deep Retrofit Scheme. I want people to bring their homes up to an A3 on the Building Energy Rating scale and replace their heating system with a low carbon alternative. I make no apologies for this ambition.

These are the kind of standards and technologies that we need to develop now to hit our climate change targets. I am however, announcing one significant change to the programme this morning. As I’m sure you’re aware, under the scheme up to half of the cost of their energy efficiency upgrade and associated project management costs will be covered by SEAI. I am delighted to announce that the scheme will also offer a much higher rate of subvention, up to 95%, for voluntary housing association homes and the homes of those that are in energy poverty. This scheme is about transforming Ireland’s building stock and while it will be necessary to persuade people to invest their own money in their homes we cannot abandon those without the resources to do so.

It is critical that we match ambition with inclusiveness. This change to the scheme ensures that those in energy poverty will not be left behind.

Ultimately however, the success or failure of this scheme rests in your hands. I have made funds available for this new scheme, SEAI has published the scheme’s principles and now we need you to go out there to find and persuade homeowners to make the leap to deep retrofit.

Convincing People on Deep Retrofit 

Key to this persuasion is to look at promoting energy efficiency as a means to an end and not an end in itself. In other words the message that we preach needs to be about the value energy efficiency can add to people’s lives. We must speak to their priorities – better health and social inclusion outcomes, the competitiveness of business, or the cost effectiveness of our public services.

This is why I feel that, aligned with our action on climate change, we need to place much greater emphasis on the need to improve air quality, and the very tangible health and other benefits that are delivered directly from energy efficiency.

We know that energy efficiency is the first step on the path to safeguarding the environment for future generations. If we can combine the message of long term collective gain on climate change, with one that focuses on the air quality benefits available here and now, we can create an even more compelling proposition for energy efficiency to be, as the International Energy Agency puts it, ‘the first fuel’.

Alongside this new scheme the establishment this year of a new Behavioural Economics Unit in the SEAI is key to driving energy efficiency change.

It is one of the major developments that has been introduced as a result of the additional funding I secured for energy efficiency in 2017, bringing our overall budget for sustainable energy in Ireland to over €100m.

Wider Context

I should also note that while I am asking you to find and persuade people to engage in deep retrofits, I am making the same demands of SEAI and of wider Government. Already, every one of the SEAI’s scheme and supports is beginning to gradually move towards the promotion of deeper retrofits.

This year’s communities scheme is offering significant support to people who engage in a combined fabric upgrade; the Warmth & Wellbeing pilot scheme is providing deep retrofits to people in energy poverty who are suffering from respiratory illness; and Warmer Homes is now providing a deep upgrade to those people living in the poorest quality homes.

In addition, my Department is working with the Office of Public Works and the Department of Education to ensure that our schools and public buildings also reach this high energy efficiency standard.
We are at the beginning of a process that will take a few years but will see the retrofit market in Ireland move to promote ever deeper interventions.

Conclusion

As minister for climate change, I cannot sit on the seashore, and order the tide to go out. I must persuade. I must enable people to make change themselves. I believe in the power and capacity of government to give leadership, and to lead change effectively.

I know that this morning I am speaking to the converted. You too are leaders for change. You are the believers in energy efficiency. You are the ones out there on doorsteps and in homes, convincing people of the merits of energy efficiency. I hope that through this scheme we will have provided you with the assistance you need to move us from principle to practice on deep retrofit.

The opportunity is there, you need to grasp it. I truly believe that if you can do so we can bridge the gap between global challenge, national responsibility and individual action.

The challenge of climate change dwarfs, every issue that ever confronted humankind. If we fail to do the little we can, the consequence of our mistake will be tragedy. But, it need not be.

It requires that as common humanity we pool our resources of talent and treasure, and pull together one with another, for the preservation of all.

Thank you.

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