17TH January 2018
First of all, I would like to thank the SEAI for inviting me to speak
here today at this important Annual Conference. I had hoped to address
last year’s inaugural conference, but an unfortunate cycling accident
intervened, so I am delighted to be with you today.
I’m a believer
in finding out what is working well through learning from others. Today
is a great opportunity to do that and to learn more about the supports
available, as we aim to achieve Ireland’s energy efficiency goals.
Why public sector
energy efficiency matters
Energy efficiency is a central component of Ireland’s National Mitigation
Plan – our national strategy on climate.
efficiency in the public sector is hugely important in terms of overall climate
action and public sector reform. This means that the efforts each
of you are making on a daily basis to improve the energy performance of your
organisations is making a difference.
What we know is that the public sector has improved its energy efficiency
by 20% equating to €133 million in avoided energy spend as well as 520,000
fewer tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2016 alone.
The performance is even more impressive when we look at the savings over
time. The cumulative avoided energy spend since 2009 is €737 million with
2.68 million tonnes of emissions avoided. That’s over €700 million of
public money that was reinvested back into frontline services.
This is the public’s money so we must be
accountable and demonstrate leadership with action. The financial savings that
each public body and department makes through cutting energy use can be
reinvested into vital public services within their own sector. This is a
government decision and my message and incentive to public bodies is to cut
your energy use so you can ‘keep the change’ and reinvest this money achieved
through energy savings, into much needed frontline public services.
Progress to date
Our 33% energy efficiency target for the public sector is both ambitious
and challenging but when we deliver energy efficiencies we set an important
example. We show what is possible and demonstrate public sector reform in
Yes, 20% improved efficiency is noteworthy but we now need a step change
in effort and large scale investment in buildings and fleets.
That’s why this time last year I published Ireland’s first Strategy for
Public Sector Energy Efficiency.
Public Sector Energy
The Strategy sets out a clear policy direction for public sector action
to increase the effort required to close our gap to target.
sector spends about €536 million on energy every year. That’s €1,000 per
minute. Acquisition is recognised in the Public Sector Strategy as a key
opportunity to improve energy efficiency.
Just over a year
ago, when my Department engaged with all public sector stakeholders by survey,
a key finding was that three quarters said they would welcome more guidance and
support to achieve energy efficiency through procurement.
They stated that
they want to learn from procurement experts and from the Office of Government
Procurement. Clearly this is a huge opportunity – and one we must grab.
I am pleased
that the Office of Government Procurement is here today. The initiative
being taken by the SEAI to develop a procurement package to support public
sector procurers in energy efficiency procurement will be very valuable but in
order for it to have a real impact the co-operation of the Office of Government
Procurement is crucial.
has the potential to make a difference in meeting our efficiency goals, better
value for public money and of course reduced emissions. While the SEAI is
leading the initiative, procurement officers and energy managers responsible
for procuring equipment and services, need to be deeply involved and engaged.
As we know the
role of the Office of Government Procurement is to assist the public sector
with respect to its sourcing needs.
Its work in
the energy field has primarily focussed on the procurement of energy supplies
and energy-consuming goods and equipment. This year I am pleased to note
that it will expand its work to include a new framework for electric and hybrid
cars and light vans, which will enable public bodies to purchase these vehicles
without any administrative burden.
This is a
significant move in the right direction.
As part of the Public
Sector Energy Efficiency
Strategy my Department provided €3 million in funding for a new partnership
between the SEAI and the Office of Public Works (OPW) to deliver energy
upgrades in central government buildings.
€2 million was allocated
for a SEAI / Department of Education renovation pilot for efficiency upgrades
to 10 schools which was successfully completed last year.
This involved retrofits
of primary and secondary schools. These schools are now seeing energy savings
in the region of 40%. Not only are scarce financial resources being saved, but
conditions in the classroom are being transformed.
This year I have secured
increased funding of €9 million to support the Public Sector Energy
But money alone will not help us meet the 33% target, strong leadership and accountability from
senior managers within public sector bodies is required.
My Department, supported
by officials from the SEAI and the OPW has actively engaged with Departments on
the implementation of the Strategy.
This has involved a
number of workshops as well as meeting with the newly appointed Departmental
Energy Performance Officers (EPOs) and energy management teams.
Officers in Government Departments will be crucial to the success of
this Strategy and so far I know Departments have found them helpful –
particularly in terms of the guidance and improved awareness of the supports
available to them.
A number of projects
have been submitted by large energy users within the public sector and this
preliminary list is currently being examined by the Strategy Steering Group
involving the SEAI, NewERA and the OPW.
Public lighting accounts
for about half of the entire energy consumption of our local authorities.
So it is vital and
urgent to upgrade the network to a more efficient one.
My officials are working
with the County and City Management Association (CCMA), Transport
Infrastructure Ireland and New Era, to upgrade the 480,000 strong public
It makes sound economic
sense, will cut energy use and maintenance cost and significantly reduce
emissions. It will also ensure, the Local Authority sector achieve its
33% energy efficiency target.
I mentioned earlier how
important it is for each Government department to effectively discharge its
leadership role under the Strategy. My department is no different in this
In terms of our
Departmental energy efficiency – we have performed quite well – at around 20% -
pretty close to the national progress figure achieved by the end of 2016.
This 20% figure was
achieved by upgrading to more energy efficiency equipment, use of building
management systems and some building upgrades.
Looking to next steps,
the audit commissioned as part of the OPW’s ‘Optimising Power at Work’
programme will identify further opportunities, as it will, for other
Departments and bodies to improve energy efficiency in the public sector.
In closing, I just want
to repeat my thanks to all here present whose efforts have delivered the very
welcome progress already achieved – and to say that my Department and the
SEAI look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure we deliver on
our 33% goal.
We are all public
servants with a duty to manage public resources to the best of our ability.
Energy efficiency is now
an integral part of how we discharge that duty.