Decarbonisation in Northern Ireland: The potential of a one stop shop

Energy Saving Trust is dedicated to promoting energy efficiency, low carbon transport and sustainable energy. We aim to address the climate emergency and deliver the wider benefits of clean energy on the road to net zero.

As Programme Administrator, on behalf of the Utility Regulator, of the Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme (NISEP), we understand the complexities and energy efficiency challenges in Northern Ireland and, with our UK and international perspective, this means we can contribute ideas and solutions for the future.

The recent Department for the Economy (DfE) Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland (NIES) is an important development, as it sets out a framework to address Northern Ireland’s contribution to tackling climate change, including a fair and just transition to a greener economy. One of the five key principles in the strategy focuses on placing people at the heart of Northern Ireland’s energy future and, in our response, we warmly welcomed the proposal for a one stop shop consumer energy service to meet this objective.

We believe that the provision of free, independent and impartial advice and support should be an integral part of Northern Ireland’s energy landscape.

The Northern Ireland Executive suggests that this service would be trialled through a pilot retrofit scheme, then offering a more extensive service before eventually becoming the main source of advice and support to Northern Ireland’s domestic consumers on all energy matters.

Learning from best in class is key to service the needs of consumers. Energy Saving Trust manages a similar one stop shop offering, Home Energy Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, so we have direct experience of how effective these types of services can be. We deliver Home Energy Scotland through a network of regional advice centres covering all of Scotland, which offer local knowledge and expert advice on saving energy, installing renewable energy at home and greener travel including electric vehicles and electric bikes.

This is not the only advice model in operation. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) runs the National Home Retrofit Scheme to fund the development of one stop shops in the Republic of Ireland. This scheme funds multiple projects with the aim to test and develop the best model to meet energy targets by 2030.

In addition to gaining insight from existing services, it is important that DfE’s services are tailored for Northern Ireland. Based on our experience, in our strategy response we suggest that any one stop shop for Northern Ireland should be:

• accessible;

• independent;

• tailored;

• expert;

• educational; and

• data-driven.

Decarbonising energy is critical to achieving Northern Ireland’s climate targets. While there are generally higher levels of energy efficiency compared to the rest of the UK, there is also high dependence on home heating oil and significant numbers of off gas-grid properties, presenting major challenges as well as some significant opportunities to accelerate the transition to low carbon heating.

With 22 per cent of Northern Ireland’s population living in fuel poverty, this challenge must also be balanced with the need to bring everyone along in the journey, showing that a warm and efficiently heated home can bring health, financial and environmental benefits.

The NIES has set out an ambitious vision of how Northern Ireland can decarbonise, we are ready to work with the Northern Ireland Executive to help drive forward change.

For more information please contact:

Angela Gracey-Roger, Programme Manager
Energy Saving Trust

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