“The Path to Net Zero” -Energy Strategy launched in Northern Ireland

Following a formal consultation launched earlier in 2021, the Northern Ireland Executive has released its official Energy Strategy, titled: “THE PATH TO NET ZERO ENERGY”, which aims to ensure that the country’s energy is secure, affordable and clean, both now and for future generations.

The strategy itself is underpinned by five key principles which will help the country deliver its vision of net zero by 2050 and affordable energy:

  • Placing Consumers at the Heart of our Energy Future
  • Grow the Green Economy
  • Do More with Less
  • Replace Fossil Fuels with Renewable Energy
  • Create a Flexible, Resilient and Integrated Energy System

The strategy document is extensive and covers most buildings (existing home, new builds, commercial buildings etc). However, the following points may be of interest to housing and energy professionals:

Introduction of minimum energy efficiency standards

The Northern Ireland Executive want to set clear targets, standards and regulations that improve energy efficiency in buildings and industry, with a high level objective to deliver energy savings of 25% from buildings and industry by 2030. 

To drive compliance and improvements in energy efficiency performance, the strategy document states that new and ambitious minimum energy efficiency standards will be set as soon as possible. These standards are likely to be prioritised for the domestic private-rented sector, social housing and the largest non-domestic energy users.

A Requirement for Retrofit

Domestic dwellings in Northern Ireland currently use more energy than anywhere else in the UK or the Republic of Ireland.  The strategy document highlights that approximately 50,000 homes may need to be retrofitted annually (around three times the level at the moment)-
with an increased whole building approach to retrofit.

In 2022, a significant pilot domestic retrofit scheme will be launched, the findings of which will inform potential new business models for ramping-up delivery. This scheme will also provide an opportunity to test how quality assurance can best be delivered, potentially building on best practice approaches elsewhere. 

Uplifting Building Regulations

England has already released an outline of its Future Homes and Future Building standards which provided a timeframe for new interim uplifts to standards in 2021 (published just this week) as well as a medium-term objective for new buildings to be ‘net zero ready from 2025. The Northern Ireland Executive has considered this, and has proposed a similar phased approached some 18 months later.

A consultation on phase 1 has already been released which covers proposals to uplift new build standards, which is expected in 2022. A further consultation is expected on phase 2 which would see a further uplift to standards take place in 2023. Full implementation of ‘net zero ready’ is anticipated no later than 2026/27, assuming England’s proposals remain on track.

These later phases will also address standards for work to existing buildings and in related areas, such as ventilation, overheating. 

Elmhurst’s Managing Director, Stuart Fairlie, is pleased to see this consultation finally come to fruition and encourages the Northern Ireland Executive to not reinvent the wheel: “It’s very exciting to see such as comprehensive consultation document released from Northern Ireland. We welcome the spirit of this document, but strongly advice that the Northern Ireland Executive to not reinvent the wheel when it comes to establishing new energy policy and regulation. The skills and knowledge of existing professionals, as well as the current methodologies, should be utilised.  Moreover, existing retrofit and energy assessment frameworks currently adopted by other nations should be considered, i.e. PAS 2035.”

Read the full Energy Strategy from Northern Ireland here: https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/publications/energy-strategy-path-net-zero-energy

Article Published: 17/12/21

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