€26 million announced to improve energy efficiency in universities

The funding will allow for the continued testing of a range of cost-effective retrofitting projects for third level campuses

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris and Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan have announced €26 million in funding to advance energy efficiency in colleges and universities.

The Energy Efficiency and Decarbonisation Pathfinder Programme will continue to test a range of building retrofit approaches, for the purposes of making existing buildings more energy efficient and reducing carbon emissions. These tests will inform decisions regarding the rollout of larger programmes in the future.

According to a government statement, the funding of this programme is “a key climate action measure”, and will help higher education institutions progress towards the 2030 target of a 50% improvement in energy efficiency and 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking today, Harris said: “I am delighted to announce that we are again increasing the funding available in this programme to advance the climate action agenda in the higher education sector. This is part of our national endeavour requiring sustained engagement with the higher education sector.”

He continued: “We want more institutions involved and more money making a difference and enabling transformational change. The HEA are playing a key role in leading out this programme within the sector and are crucially gathering lessons learned from this key pathfinding programme.”

A range of retrofitting projects will be considered for funding, including deep retrofit with low-temperature air source heat pumps, medium retrofit with high-temperature air source heat pump, medium retrofit with mechanical and electrical upgrades, and deep fabric retrofit. Other pathways involve a geothermal water source heat pump with borehole, and biomass and medium fabric upgrade.

“Our 2030 targets for energy efficiency and decarbonisation are ambitious, but I’m here to say that we are committed to doing our part.”, Harris added.

“This programme will help institutions get there, developing and disseminating knowledge on a range of decarbonisation pathways that will work for the sector as a whole. This of course is building on the excellent work already being done by the sector in the area of sustainability and climate action.”

Higher education institutions will be invited shortly to apply for funding for projects covered by the programme, due to be commenced in 2023. The Higher Education Authority will provide grants for successful projects resulting from the programme.

The programme is co-funded by both the Department of Further and Higher Education and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications under Project Ireland 2040. It is jointly administered through the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) and the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Eamon Ryan said: “The Energy Efficiency and Decarbonisation Pathfinder Programme is delivering significant energy savings and emission reductions while improving learning environments for our young people.”

“The Programme also continues to be highly successful in testing retrofit and decarbonisation solutions in higher education campuses across the country, meaning that we are gathering the evidence needed to scale up and speed up our transition over coming years,” he added.

“I am delighted that we are announcing this third call for funding, building on the work that has been done already and putting in place the new systems and processes we need to continue to make progress towards the 2030 targets of a 50% improvement in energy efficiency and 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Conor Healy

Conor Healy is the Deputy News Editor of Trinity News and is currently in his Senior Freshman Year studying Law and Political Science