Written answers

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Department of Education and Skills

School Costs

Photo of Cathal CroweCathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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99. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will consider providing additional funding to schools to deal with their significantly increased energy bills which are putting a strain on their finances. [15276/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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My Department provides funding to all recognised schools in the Free Education Scheme by way of per capita grants. The two main grants are the Capitation grant to cater for day to day running costs including heating, lighting etc. and the Ancillary grant to cater for the cost of employing ancillary services staff. These grants may be regarded as a common grant from which the Board of Management can allocate according to its own priorities.

My Department has also ensured that centrally negotiated rates are available to schools for electricity and bulk heating fuels. These rates are available through existing frameworks sourced by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP). OGP has run competitions specifically for Schools at a national level and the Schools Procurement Unit and the Department has communicated with schools and school management bodies informing them of the options available to them through these national arrangements. Information on how to avail of these arrangements is available via the Schools Procurement Unit website, www.spu.ie.

Furthermore, my Department is at the forefront of design with respect to sustainable energy in school buildings and this performance has been recognised at both National and International level with sustainable energy awards for excellence in Design and Specification.

My Department’s Technical Guidance Documents set the benchmark for sustainable design in school buildings with a clear focus on energy efficiency and they are based on solid energy research projects. Schools that are designed and built in accordance with the Department’s schools technical guidance documents have been achieving A3 Building Energy Ratings since 2009 with current schools typically achieving up to 20% higher performance than required by the current Building Regulations, along with 10% of primary energy provided via photovoltaics and infrastructure provision for electric vehicle charging.

All new technologies and approaches are tested to ensure compatibility with school design and operational requirements. Successful and repeatable results are then incorporated into all new school designs and refurbishments. The Departments policy is supported by a strong research programme with fifty three research projects at various stages including the energy website www.energyineducation.ie, which is a joint partnership with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

In the interest of sustainability, it is critical that renewable applications are properly suited to the schools needs so as to reduce energy costs and carbon and not just applied for the sake of having renewables. It is also critical that we minimise the demand for energy before we invest in renewable energy applications. This has been assisted in previous years with the wall and attic insulation programme and the water conservation programme.

My Department and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications established a jointly funded pathfinder programme with the SEAI, testing and demonstrating energy efficiency and decarbonisation retrofit approaches. This pathfinder is a great example of collaboration ensuring the deployment of new design approaches and technologies are introduced to the educational environment on an evidence based approach.

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 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.

The longer-term outcome of the pathfinder will be to create an accurate and scalable model for energy efficient retrofits of schools across Ireland. The deep energy retrofit programme for schools built prior to 2008 is due to be rolled out as included in the National Development Plan.

The pathfinder programme has retrofitted 41 schools across Ireland to date with work on an additional 9 schools added in 2021 underway. 2022 sees six additional schools undergoing deep retrofit to a Building Energy Rating (BER) of B with renewable heating systems. Each school undergoes a comprehensive assessment to ensure that the measures are suitable for that school and will deliver value to both the school and learnings for the national retrofit programme.

The Energy in Education website portal and advice programme (Joint programme between SEAI and Dept. of Education) also assists schools reduce their energy consumption and empowers participating schools and pupils to learn the benefits of sustainability. www.energyineducation.ie. Typically savings of between 5 to 10% are identified through low and no cost measures, while some schools participating have identified potential savings of up to 15 % or more.


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