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Built Environment and Climate Action

Published: 31 December 2019
From: Department of the Taoiseach Department of the Taoiseach

1. Introduction

The built environment accounted for 12.7% of Ireland’s greenhouse gases in 2017, comprised of residential emissions, and emissions from commercial and public services .

It is important that we improve the energy efficiency of our buildings, including our homes, workplaces and schools, by meeting higher energy performance standards and by increasing retrofit activity. This will not only reduce Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels, but will also improve our living standards by making our buildings more comfortable, healthier, safer, and less costly to heat.

2. Ambitions and targets

Key measures set out in the Climate Action Plan to improve the built environment sector, include:

  • Introduce stricter requirements for new buildings and substantial refurbishments.
  • Design policy to get circa 500,000 existing homes to upgrade to B2 Building Energy Rating (BER) and 400,000 to install heat pumps.
  • Build a supply chain and a model for aggregation where home retrofits are grouped together to allow this level of activity to be funded and delivered.
  • Deliver two new district heating systems, and implement a roadmap for delivering district heating potential.
  • Increase attention to energy and carbon ratings in all aspects of managing property assets.

3. Actions completed to date


A retrofitting model taskforce established to deliver our new national retrofitting plan: Built environment actions are critical to achieve the ambitious targets for retrofitting the existing building stock across Ireland. Retrofitting is essential to enhance the environmental performance of the national housing supply, including enhancing insulation and installing new heating technologies. The establishment of a retrofitting model taskforce began the important analytical work required to deliver a retrofit programme as efficiently and effectively as possible. Further details about the work being undertaken by the Taskforce are available here .

Building Standards and Energy Efficiency

New requirements to ensure that all new homes are Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) standard . Introducing such regulatory measures is key to support the phasing out of fossil fuel boilers and develop a more sustainable housing supply. The software calculation methodology for checking compliance for NZEB, the Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP), has been published by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Effective banning of new oil boilers: the NZEB requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive took effect for dwellings commencing construction from 1 November 2019 subject to transition arrangements. CSO data shows oil boilers are currently installed in 5% of new dwellings. With the new NZEB requirements it is expected that oil boilers will effectively be eliminated in new dwellings by 2022. Heat pumps powered by electricity are currently installed in 39% of new dwellings. As a result of new NZEB regulations it is expected that this penetration rate will significantly increase to effectively eliminate gas boilers in new dwellings by 2025.

Market Signals

Carbon tax: Carbon pricing can encourage energy efficiency improvements by households and businesses. In Budget 2020, Government increased the rate of carbon tax by €6 per tonne . Under the Climate Action Plan there is a commitment to implement a carbon price of at least €80 per tonne by 2030. This will improve the payback period for investments and increase the up-take of energy efficiency measures by factoring the cost of carbon into decision-making.

A carbon tax increase of €6 a tonne is expected to raise €90m in 2020. This means that €90m in additional funding will be provided in 2020 for new schemes or increases to the budgets of existing schemes that are focused on climate change. Full details about how the carbon tax will be spent are available here.

Some €33m of this will be spent on reducing emissions from the built environment. The SEAI-run Warmer Home Scheme provides free energy efficiency upgrades to households deemed to be in or at risk of energy poverty. This reduces the energy required to adequately heat a home, thus reducing a household’s exposure to increases in energy costs. This will be more effective in the long run at reducing heating costs than increases in the fuel allowance. €13m in extra funds will be provided for this scheme in 2020.

€20m will be dedicated to the creation of a new energy efficiency scheme as committed to in the Climate Action Plan. This scheme will upgrade the energy efficiency of the social housing stock in the midlands. But it will do so in a different way than has been done before. It will focus on upgrading much larger batches of homes in distinct, compact geographical areas and allow private homeowners to opt-in. This will determine the savings that can be achieved through a larger scale and more structured approach to the renovation of our housing stock. It will also create new, sustainable employment (estimated at 400 jobs) in the region. The specific design of the project will be driven by the Retrofit Taskforce which has been established by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Sustainable Energy Communities

The establishment of 256 Sustainable Energy Communities has been a significant success in encouraging local actors to work together. It is underpinned by SEAI mentors and grants for a Local Energy Plan. They have been able to undertake quite ambitious changes across multiple locations in cooperation with the Energy Obligated Companies. There is a huge opportunity to build on this model and to work with the new Climate Officers in local authorities to mobilise more such networks with a target to reach 1500.

Renewable and District Heating

The second phase of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat opened for applications in June 2019. The scheme is designed to increase the energy generated from renewable sources in the heat sector. It provides multi-annual support payments to anaerobic digestion and biomass heating systems and review tariffs on an annual basis. The scheme is open to commercial, industrial, agricultural, district heating, public sector and other non-domestic heat users.

Please click here to return to the main climate action page.