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Creating a step change in energy efficiency will realise benefits for the whole of Northern Ireland society, Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said.

A new research report, commissioned by the Department for the Economy, has highlighted the range of economic and wider societal benefits that can be achieved by significantly improving how we use energy and move towards a net zero carbon economy.

The Minister said: “The unit of energy with the lowest cost is the one we do not use.

“The first step in decarbonising our energy mix is to actually use less energy for our power, heating and transport needs.

“The actions and initiatives in this ambitious energy efficiency report point the way to benefits for everyone, including warmer and drier homes in winter, improved physical and mental wellbeing and, in turn, reduced demand on our health and social care sector.

“Our local energy efficiency sector has the potential to grow significantly over the coming years, providing skills development and job opportunities. It will contribute to overall economic growth as we look to the post-Covid recovery.”

The reports highlights that, to align with the 2050 net zero commitment, policies will be needed to drive retrofitting of more than 50,000 buildings per year in Northern Ireland within the next decade, more than treble the current rate.

The key recommendations are:

  1. Set obligatory ‘minimum energy efficiency standards’ for buildings;
  2. Develop a range of financial incentives to support energy efficiency activity;
  3. Establish a programme for delivery of retrofit measures;
  4. Establish a ‘one-stop shop’ to support consumer energy efficiency decision-making and oversee the end-to-end supply chain;
  5. Set clear targets for energy efficiency improvements; and
  6. Establish a local pilot to support the development of new technical skills in the local energy efficiency sector and test a local accreditation scheme to ensure delivery standards are high.

The Minister added: “The recommendations in the report will feed into the evidence base for the new Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland which will land later this year.”

The report, ‘Research into the Future of Energy Efficiency Policy in Northern Ireland,’ has been published on the DfE website at https://www.economy-ni.gov.uk/publications/research-future-energy-efficiency-policy-northern-ireland.