Minister for Education Norma Foley TD and Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan TD have welcomed the progress made in upgrading the energy efficiency of seven schools under the 2020 Schools Energy Retrofit Pathfinder programme.

As part of the 2020 Pathfinder programme, seven schools were chosen in rural and urban areas to undergo extensive fabric upgrades to improve the energy performance of the building. Each school was assessed comprehensively to ensure that the measures were suitable for that school and would deliver value to both the school and the pilot. Design teams were appointed to each project, with medium to deep energy efficiency works delivered over the summer. The upgrades, at a value of up to €10m, targeted energy efficiency improvements and included upgrades to doors and windows, insulation, lighting and heating upgrades as well as renewable technologies.

One of the schools involved in the programme, Scoil Chuimsitheach Chiaráin, a post-primary school in An Cheathru Rua, Galway went from a C3 Building Energy Rating to a B2 Building Energy Rating. The school is expected to save up to 48% on energy and a 52% reduction in CO2 emission after upgrades to the roof, the installation of a new LED lighting system and a new high efficiency boiler system.

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 enormously heartening to see that the schools selected for this programme are reaping the benefits and improving the energy efficiency of their buildings. The feedback from both pupils and staff is very positive, highlighting the benefits of a more comfortable teaching and learning environment.”

Minister Ryan said:

 I am delighted to hear such positive results from the 2020 Schools Pathfinder programme.  Not only is it delivering significant energy savings and emission reductions, it is improving the comfort levels and learning environment for our children. The programme is also building expertise so we can roll this out on a much larger scale to more schools in the coming years.

The Schools Energy Retrofit Pathfinder programme is funded by the Department of Education and Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. The programme is administered by the Planning and Building Unit in the Department of Education and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland with delivery partner Limerick Clare ETB.

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, six schools were selected in urban and rural areas. During 2021, the focus of the pathfinder programme will be to carry out deep retrofit of the buildings and the use of renewable heat.

This collaboration and research is helping to shape the future direction of energy efficiency in schools, and will continue with a view to delivering a programme of retrofits commencing in 2023 as the National Development Plan funding permits.

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