Saving energy to help your pocket and the planet

A new Cork City Council scheme aims to help individuals and businesses access information on how they can curb their energy use, says the council’s Asset Climate Action Lead, Brian Cassidy
Saving energy to help your pocket and the planet

Brian Cassidy at the Cork City Council Home Energy Upgrade Office (HEUGO) launch in July

EVERY year, a significant proportion of home energy is wasted.

Whether it’s heating a poorly insulated home, using energy-hungry appliances, or having an inefficient energy source, these factors are all contributing to households using more energy than needed and wasting more money on energy bills.

Instead, imagine if this energy was saved?

The impact this could have on keeping our money in our pockets, as well as the difference it could make in cutting harmful carbon dioxide emissions, is significant.

With housing energy emissions accounting for a staggering 25% of all energy used in Ireland (as well as 25% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions) home energy upgrades play a vital role in improving domestic energy efficiency and our national and international environmental outcomes.

With more than €8 billion in supports available through the Government’s National Retrofitting Scheme, the current levels of grant funding for homeowners to implement home energy upgrade measures is unprecedented.

From taking crucial action on climate change and the biodiversity crisis to protecting against rising energy costs, and with the additional bonus of having warmer and cosier homes, there’s no time like the present to get started.

But yes, it can be hard to know where to start.

That’s where Cork City’s Home Energy Upgrade Office (HEUGO) comes in. Individuals and communities can access free and independent expert advice and guidance, an ‘in person’ service at Cork City’s HEUGO unit located on Grand Parade in the city centre.

The first of its kind in Ireland, this innovative collaboration between Cork City Council, the International Energy Research Centre (Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork) and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, has seen growing numbers access its services.

The initiative builds on Cork City Council’s determination to become a climate neutral city. It is the culmination of four years involvement in the European interregional learning project INTENSIFY.

The HEUGO supports homeowners from across the city and wider region on everything from seeking guidance on installing attic insulation (estimated to save up to €600 per year on home heating bills) to the installation of renewable energy systems and much more

There is a range of grant funding available through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and this means there has never been a better time to take action on energy usage.

Householders can avail of 50% of the cost of a complete home energy upgrade solution for a typical home and up to 80% of the cost for attic insulation through an Individual Energy Upgrade Grant.

Alongside the recently announced planning permission exemption for rooftop solar panels, and the opportunity to sell surplus renewable energy back to the grid through the Microgeneration Support Scheme, upgrading home energy efficiency and transitioning energy systems makes good sense. And we can see that Cork homeowners and communities are seeing the opportunity for change.

The HEUGO also supports the creation of energy communities in the city.

Whether you are part of an energy community or interested in joining one, the HEUGO can assist by guiding a community or connecting individuals that might otherwise not have been aware of a shared ambition to reduce energy usage.

Working as part of wider group brings many benefits such as combining costs and saving on upgrade measures and will have an overall greater impact on the environment.

The benefits can go further than front doors too. Communities can consider the upgrade of a community building or the installation of a public electric car charger.

At home and abroad, biodiversity and ecosystems are rapidly deteriorating under the strain of rising carbon dioxide emissions and the escalating climate crisis. The good news is that homeowners and communities have the power to make a difference.

If a typical Cork home moves from a C3 Building Energy Rating (BER) to a B2 BER - government target for Irish homes - an annual reduction of 4,000kg of carbon dioxide emissions is made possible.

The achievable reduction in emissions brings into clear focus the substantial role of home energy upgrades in securing a healthy and safe environment and future for all.

The HEUGO office supports the Government’s Climate Action Plan by empowering the public with the knowledge to upgrade their home.

It also contributes to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, ratified by Ireland in 2015. Almost half the Sustainable Development Goals are related to energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.

Dedicated to supporting the public, the HEUGO* is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Funded through UP-STAIRS, a H2020 project, INTENSIFY, an Interreg Europe project, Cork City Council, and the SEAI, the HEUGO services are available at no cost.

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