Our strategy is aimed at delivering substantial progress towards an overall improvement in energy efficiency of 34% within a 10 year period. Up to 2011 an improvement of 22% in energy efficiency has been delivered.

The overall aim is to reduce domestic energy consumption in Northern Ireland, without compromising on comfort levels.


Home Energy Conservation Authority (HECA) Progress Report

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These objectives were based on several key findings from the House Condition Survey and other research:

  • Northern Ireland had a lower average Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) than Great Britain – this meant that on average, NI homes were less energy efficient than the UK as a whole. This situation has now changed, and Northern Ireland homes are now slightly more energy efficient than those in Great Britain.
  • There is now a higher average SAP in NIHE homes than in owner occupied and private rented property
  • Housing Association homes, being mainly of relatively recent construction, have the highest SAP rating.
  • Northern Ireland has had a traditional reliance on solid fuel as a heat source but this has now changed, with oil being the main fuel in 70% of homes
  • A high proportion of income is spent on fuel
  • There used to be a general apathy towards energy efficiency, in terms of both carrying out physical works and in making behavioural changes - this has now also changed dramatically
  • Many organisations were involved in energy efficiency, and a partnership approach was developed.

Our approach to implementing the Energy Strategy

This sector accounts for two thirds of the Northern Ireland housing stock, and therefore contributes significantly to the improvements in energy efficiency.

As we have no direct enforcement powers over how owner occupiers use energy, we try to raise overall awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency, promotion of specific energy saving measures and through partnerships offering financial assistance and advice.

We aim to make sure that all sectors of the housing market in Northern Ireland can take advantage of the benefits of energy efficiency. We are in the process of making all Housing Executive properties as energy efficient as possible through a programme of physical works.

We are always looking for opportunities to integrate energy conservation measures into existing planned improvement and maintenance programmes to reduce costs. We recommend, wherever feasible, the use of least environmentally damaging fuels and extensive use of heating controls in improvement programs.  We have also tested a number of renewable and innovative energy technologies in Housing Executive homes.

The housing association sector has a higher average SAP score than other groups. Nevertheless, both the Housing Executive and housing associations recognise that more work can be done to further improve energy efficiency within this sector, particularly among the older homes that scored below the average figure.

We encourage housing associations to further improve energy efficiency in homes when carrying out upgrades alongside planned maintenance and improvement work. We recommend the use of the most energy efficient heating systems and controls in housing association properties at newbuild stage.

The private sector used to perform comparatively poorly in terms of the average SAP score. However in recent years the situation has improved and we encourage landlords to continue to upgrade their properties using the range of financial incentives available - grants and landlord efficiency allowances.

We emphasise the financial benefits for landlords, as well as the fact that improved energy efficiency reduces fuel bills and improves comfort levels for their tenants.

While financial incentives are mainly directed at the owner occupied sector, items such as low energy light bulbs and efficient electrical appliances apply to everyone. There are schemes available which offer financial support for energy efficiency improvements.

The objectives and principles of our Energy Strategy

The main objectives of the strategy are as follows:

  • To achieve substantial progress towards a 34% improvement in the energy efficiency of the housing stock in Northern Ireland over a ten year period.
  • To ensure that our policies and procedures are compatible with new role as Energy Conservation Authority.
  • To substantially improve the energy rating (SAP rating) of the Northern Ireland dwelling stock.
  • To ensure that energy conservation measures are included in all the refurbishment work we carry out, as far as is practical.
  • To take the needs of vulnerable groups into account when developing financial incentives, promotions and advice campaigns.
  • To develop effective measures for the collection of data on the energy efficiency of the housing stock
  • To develop a co-ordinated approach to the promotion of energy efficiency of the housing stock.

In implementing this strategy, we are adhering to a number of key principles which involve a commitment to:

  • Working in partnership with others to promote energy conservation in the future.
  • Training staff where appropriate.
  • Developing cost effective and practicable sustainable building standards.
  • Pursuing and developing alternative funding sources.
  • Raising the profile of energy efficiency through education, promotion, advice and information.
  • Carrying out the necessary additional research and policy reviews.
  • Keeping ourselves informed of good practice in energy conservation activities, both the UK and throughout Europe.

What is SAP?

SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure) is a way of reliably estimating the energy efficiency of a home. It has been adopted by the UK government as part of the national standard for calculating the energy performance of buildings.

It is calculated by a procedure, specified in Building Regulations (the Building Research Establishment's Domestic Energy Model (BREDEM), which predicts heating and hot water costs. These costs depend on the insulation and air tightness of the house, and on the efficiency and control of the heating system.

Every new house has to have a SAP rating, expressed on a scale from 1 to 100, with higher numbers meaning better energy efficiency.

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