The Irish Green Building Council has said Ireland must move to fossil free energy systems in new homes immediately.

The oganisation’s Chief Executive, Pat Barry, told the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government that by moving to energy positive homes, new homes can play a part in decarbonising our electricity.

He said the Government must provide long-term certainty that deep energy renovation is and will remain a top priority.

Mr Barry also said the Government needs to support the rapid upskilling of the construction industry so that homeowners can identify which building professionals and tradesmen have the expertise to do quality energy renovation.

He told the committee that Ireland must ramp up funding for local authorities to renovate all their housing stock.

He also said the Government needs to make finance available to everyone to renovate their homes whether though low-interest loans or green mortgages.

Mr Barry said the IGBC has been given funding by the European Commission to work on establishing a green mortgage programme in Ireland over the next two years.

He said this will enable homeowners to access cheaper finance for renovation and allow home buyers to benefit from reduced interest rates if they buy the greenest new homes on the market.

In 2017, the IGBC worked with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to develop Ireland's national renovation strategy.

The council says it is working with members on the implementation of this strategy - which includes working with all the construction institutes to upskill their members for renovation.

The council says it is aiming to get all our homes, both new and existing, to zero carbon by 2050.

Paul Kenny, Chief Executive of the Tipperary Energy Agency, said the Government must implement robust regulations that will stop fossil fuel boilers being used in homes. 

Also speaking at the committee, he said that people are renovating their houses and are putting in another fossil fuel boiler.

He said the awareness of the requirements in the building professions about energy renovation is very poor. 

Mr Kenny said public buildings were still being built with fossil fuels boilers across the board and politicians need to step in and say that is not OK.  

80% of homes have BER of C or lower

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has said Ireland uses 7% more energy and emits nearly 60% more emissions compared to other EU countries.

Robert Deegan, Principal Officer of the Energy Efficiency and Affordability Division, told the committee that the Government has accepted the need to redouble its efforts to improve the efficiency of homes.

He said energy efficiency measures in homes are among the most cost-effective methods of reducing emissions.

Mr Deegan said Ireland's target for improving energy efficiency is 20% by 2020 and the country is on track to achieve 16% efficiency by that deadline.

He told the committee that a new more demanding target will be established for 2030 as part of the all of Government Climate Action Plan.

He said we must build a generation of new homes which will significantly reduce energy use and CO2 emissions.

A range of grant schemes are available to householders and communities to suit their circumstances and the scale of work they want to undertake, he said.

Mr Deegan said grants covering part of the cost of retrofits are available for those that can afford to invest some of their own funds -- while 100% funding is available for those on lower incomes at risk of fuel poverty.

The total funding allocated for these schemes for 2019 is €85 million - an increase of €40m compared to 2015.

He told the committee that since 2000, over 400,000 homes have received direct support under these schemes.

However, he said that despite this investment, over 80% of homes still have a Building Energy Rating of C or lower.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government told the committee that the installation of oil boilers has dropped from 36% to 5% in new homes. 

Sean Armstrong, the Department’s Senior Adviser in Building Standards said electrical systems make up 38% of heating systems in new dwellings.

He said that funding of around €128m for social housing was provided from 2013 to 2018 to improve energy efficiency in almost 68,000 local authority homes.

He said energy efficient measures have been incorporated into over 9,000 vacant social housing units that have been returned to productive use since 2014.

Mr Armstrong told the Committee that this means around 50% of the social housing stock has been energy retrofitted.