Saturday 20 January 2018

Public bodies miss targets for reducing energy use

Public bodies have reduced the State's annual energy bill by almost €75m a year but are a long way from meeting targets
Public bodies have reduced the State's annual energy bill by almost €75m a year but are a long way from meeting targets
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Public bodies have reduced the State's annual energy bill by almost €75m a year but are a long way from meeting targets to help tackle climate change and save scarce public funds.

A new report from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), seen by the Irish Independent, shows that in 2013 energy use fell by 14pc across the public sector.

But a Government and EU target to reduce consumption by 33pc by 2020 is being hampered by a lack of progress in key sectors.

The 'Annual Report on Public Sector Energy Efficiency Performance' reveals that 67 agencies are using more energy than before, despite being required to reduce consumption.

It also finds that one in three public bodies, or 134 of 400, refused to report to the SEAI, despite being obliged to do so.

The lack of ambition raises serious questions about leadership at Government level to drive progress, particularly as any reductions in energy use would reduce bills and free up funding for key public services.

In an embarrassing development, it reveals that three Government departments, including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, have all increased consumption instead of yielding reductions.

The departments are Environment (up 24pc); Public Expenditure and Reform (11pc); and Agriculture (10pc).

The Department of Education recorded no change, while the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources - which is the driver of the efficiency programme - has made improvements, but is "not yet on the path" to meeting the 2020 target.

The annual public sector energy bill across 400 bodies, ranging from state agencies to hospitals, stands at €588m.

The SEAI said that just 266 of these reported progress to date, and 41pc of these will reach the target. Another 31pc are making improvements but are "not on track", while the remaining 28pc are using more energy than before.

In all, the amount of energy saved in 2013 is equivalent to the usage of 75,000 homes.

SEAI chief executive Dr Brian Motherway said the report demonstrated that "significant savings" could be achieved.

"The purpose of this report is to encourage more public bodies to think about their energy use and to exploit the opportunity to reduce costs.

"It is understandable that for many bodies energy has not been a high priority to date, particularly for those who are low users. We believe the successes highlighted show that significant savings are available across the public sector and that the report will be a catalyst for all public bodies to take action."

The report also reveals that the HSE has yielded a reduction of just 9pc, and is not on track to meet the 2020 target.

Among the group of the largest energy users, An Post, Bus Éireann, Dublin's Mater Hospital and the Railway Procurement Agency which operates the Luas have failed to make progress and are using more energy than before.

Only local authorities are reporting in full, while work completed by the Defence Forces has made it the first military force in the world to receive ISO 50001 energy management accreditation.

Irish Independent

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