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Speech by Minister Denis Naughten at SEAI Public Sector Energy Efficiency Conference

17TH January 2018


Good morning.

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.

Energy 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 action. 

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 Efficiency Strategy

The Strategy sets out a clear policy direction for public sector action to increase the effort required to close our gap to target. 

The public 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.


This initiative 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 Efficiency Strategy.

But money alone will not help us meet the 33% target, strong leadership and accountability from senior managers within public sector bodies is required. 

Leadership & Engagement

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. 

Energy Performance 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

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 lighting network. 

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 regard. 

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.

Thank you.



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