The Irish Green Building Council launched last week – 23rd February – its final set of recommendations for a better national renovation strategy.
The IGBC proposed that the Government and financial institutions introduce a series of financial and tax measures – such as lower interest ‘green mortgages’ – to encourage homeowners, landlords and businesses to engage in ‘deep renovation’ which will significantly reduce their energy use.
These recommendations are contained in a report – Unlocking Ireland’s Potential: Towards Large-Scale Deep Energy Renovation – which has been published to inform the Government’s National Renovation Strategy which the European Union requires Ireland to produce by the end of April, 2017. The report emerged from a consultation process during 2016 with a wide range of almost 200 stakeholders conducted by the IGBC in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
Pat Barry, IGBC CEO, said that as it currently stands, Ireland is likely to be fined for not reaching its binding 2020 climate targets.
“Instead, of paying substantial fines in 2021, we are advising the Government to invest money in ‘deep renovation’ now. While there is a strong business case for the private sector to pursue deep energy renovation, legislative certainty and a range of financial incentives could accelerate market transformations.”
Mr Barry said that the banks and credit unions can both play a role in supporting large scale energy renovation.
“In the private residential sector, the introduction of lower interest loans (green loans) for homeowners who undertake deep energy renovation should be supported. Beyond home buyers, green mortgages covering buy-to-rent and top-up mortgages could have a significant role to play. Loans for financing deep retrofit should be less risky for banks and homeowners as the lower operational cost and greater valuations (and as a result the increased value of the home) over time reduce the risk of mortgage default.”
In addition, Pat Barry explained that the IGBC is proposing:
- Introduction of larger composite grants – instead of the current system of separate grants for boilers, insulation, etc. – to encourage homeowners to conduct comprehensive energy efficiency projects;
- Extension of the Accelerated Capital Allowance to retrofitting solutions including for private landlords;
- Gradual ban on leasing of residential properties that don’t meet energy standards;
- The aggregation of ‘deep renovation’ projects – such as neighbours joining together to commission work – as a way to lower costs, improve quality and facilitate access to funding;
- Introduction of building performance leases which reward commercial tenants and building owners who act in an energy efficient way.
The IGBC is saying that the lack of investment in skills at all levels of the supply chain represents one of the main risks to the country’s ability to meet the 2020 targets. Pat Barry says that as the construction industry is picking up, it becomes ever more challenging for construction workers and professionals to find time to upskill so incentives need to be put in place.
“Public bodies and larger private organisations – such as businesses – could include appropriate skills requirements in their tender documents. The introduction of skills cards for construction workers and professionals who have upskilled in deep renovation and the launch of a mandatory live register would make that process easier.”
According to Pat Barry, another issue identified by IGBC is the low level of awareness about the need for ‘deep renovation’, the type of measures that are required by homeowners and businesses and their benefits.
“Co-ordinated awareness raising campaigns are needed at both national and local levels but they need to go beyond simple financial messages about energy bill savings which are not appropriate for all end-users. Government leadership and clear political commitment are required while the power of community-based approaches should not be under-estimated given the trust people put in their own neighbourhoods,” Pat Barry concluded.
Adrian Joyce, Campaign Director for Renovate Europe said: “Energy renovation creates more jobs than equivalent investment in new built. These are mainly local jobs for local people. The publication and implementation of an ambitious national renovation strategy is a unique opportunity for Ireland to become a global leader in that field.”
Speaking on the day, Minister Canney added:
“The recommendations that have been published today will be a key input into, not just the development of Ireland’s next national renovation strategy but also our forthcoming national climate and energy mitigation plan. Significant progress has been made in accelerating energy efficiency in Ireland through measures such as attic insulation and energy conservation campaigns. Using our energy more efficiently is the most cost-effective and accessible way in which to tackle climate change. However, the statistics show that Ireland relies on high emission, imported fuels to meet over 88% of our energy needs at a cost of €4.6 billion each and every year. This is not sustainable and we need to accelerate reduction in carbon emissions from electricity generation, the built environment and the transport sectors by at least 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050”.
The Minister went on to say: “With the support of projects like BuildUpon I am confident we can convert our ambition into real actions to reduce emissions, and bring about the transformation required if we are to decarbonise our economy. I would like to thank the IGBC on behalf of the Government for the tremendous work they have put into this project over the past two years”.
The report – Unlocking Ireland’s Potential: Towards Large-Scale Deep Energy Renovation is available here.
For more information, please contact Marion@igbc.ie.