Ministers Foley and Ryan launch €14 million 2021 Schools Energy Retrofit Pathfinder Programme

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan TD have launched a €14 million Pathfinder programme, that will demonstrate the approach to deep retrofit in the schools’ sector, testing energy efficiency solutions and renewable heat technology.

This government-funded energy retrofit Pathfinder programme will target energy use and CO2 emission reduction by 50%, testing deep retrofit and low carbon heating solutions. The 2021 programme will see six schools benefitting from a selection of energy efficiency works.

It is jointly funded with a €14 million budget from the Department of Education and Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and administered by SEAI and the Planning and Building Unit in the Department of Education.

Minister Foley said:

“The Department is committed to playing its part in ensuring energy efficiency in our schools, to support the Climate Action Plan. It is important that new design, policy and technologies are introduced to the educational environment on an evidence-based approach. Building on the Department’s Energy Research programme established in 1997, this jointly established Pathfinder Programme in collaboration with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and Limerick Clare Education and Training Board is testing and demonstrating energy retrofit approaches and informing stakeholders. The Pathfinder programme is a great example of how working together on pilot energy efficiency and decarbonisation projects, we can establish approaches to ensure compatibility with school design and operational requirements on a scalable basis”.
Norma Foley, Minister for Education

Minister Ryan said:

“The public service must reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050. This project is an example of leadership, which is producing sustainable solutions that can be scaled up around the country. Schools are at the centre of our communities, and are where our children learn skills for their future. By ensuring that older schools undertake energy upgrades to become low-energy buildings, we can demonstrate the steps necessary to our children, and the wider community, while critically reducing running costs, emissions, and improving the comfort levels and learning environment in these vital buildings.”
Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications

CEO of SEAI, William Walsh said:

“SEAI supports schools with energy efficiency through student workshops, resources and energy management (more than 800 schools to date). This allows them to report energy data through our monitoring and reporting system (2,569 schools reporting in 2020). Since launching, this pathfinder programme is providing a template for large scale retrofit of all schools in Ireland, which will be required to help Ireland on its ambitious national targets.”
William Walsh, CEO, SEAI

This Pathfinder programme is paving the way for, and informing, a much larger national schools’ programme for the energy retrofit of schools built prior to 2008 from 2023 onwards, as included in the National Development Plan. It is facilitating research on a range of typical retrofit options, which will have been tried and tested. It is providing valuable development information for a solution driven delivery strategy which will be founded on a solid evidence base that has proven the robustness and scalability of renewable solutions within the schools’ sector.

Now in its fifth year, the pilot programme has retrofitted 39 schools across Ireland to date. This year will see six schools undergoing deep retrofit to a Building Energy Rating (BER) of B with renewable heating systems. Each school underwent a comprehensive assessment to ensure that the measures were suitable for that school and would deliver value to both the school and learnings for the national retrofit programme.

The schools for 2021 present a variety of challenges, including building age, archetype and retrofit requirements.