Thursday 14 December 2017

Civil servants cost taxpayer millions by not turning off lights

Paul Melia

MILLIONS of euro in taxpayers' cash are being blown every year in electricity charges because civil servants are not turning out the lights.

Despite the Government telling us to go green, not one public building has achieved a top grade in a ratings scheme designed to show how energy efficient offices are.

Introduced on January 1 last year, all public buildings with an internal floor area greater than 1,000sq m must display an energy certificate in a place "clearly visible to the public".

But just half the 3,000 public buildings show the certificate, and despite some buildings opening in recent years, not one has achieved an A1 in the ratings scheme. Ratings run from A to G, with G a poor rating and A the best.

They are calculated based on the energy consumed, and the results compared with other buildings of the same type.

Of the 1,500 that have certificates, most local authorities and universities score a D or lower. No A1s were scored, and, apart from schools, only the Abbey and Peacock theatres in Dublin have an A2 rating.

Just nine of the 15 government departments display the certificate, with many of the 1,500 buildings already assessed comprised of schools.

Other poor performers are hospitals, libraries and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) offices.

The ratings suggest that public bodies are not managing their fuel use, which will inevitably result in high fuel bills which have to be paid by the taxpayer.

Brian Motherway, the chief operating officer of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), said yesterday that savings of 10pc could be made by turning off unnecessary lighting.

"We do a lot of work with the public sector but often it's the basic behaviour like leaving on the lights which double the bills," he said.

"By 2020, we want to see 33pc more efficiency in public buildings. Savings of 10pc can be made overnight, with further gains if you start looking at boilers and heating systems.

"Government departments are only a small proportion of it, schools and hospitals are more common. We do a fair bit of work in the public sector and people should do it, they would learn a lot."

Among the winners are the Custom House, headquarters of the Department of the Environment, which has moved from a D1 to a C3, despite being 250 years old.

As a protected structure, windows cannot be changed or insulation pumped into walls to achieve higher savings.

A spokesman said the savings were achieved through "information and gentle persuasion", including asking staff to turn off lights and computers.

The ESB -- which aims to be a zero-carbon supplier of electricity by 2035 -- has eight buildings which scored the lowest G rating, with two others scoring a F and E2 grade.


A spokesman said that the age of the buildings was a factor, but that the power company had committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 35pc by 2012 and that it had cut energy use by 20pc since 2007.

"In the past year we have engaged energy auditors to carry out audits on all occupied ESB buildings (127 audits)," he added.

"These audits have identified approximately 2000 initiatives which have been costed and prioritised and are being implemented progressively over the next three years.

"This will see us achieve our 35pc reduction target."

Irish Independent

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