Progress needed if we want to turn public sector green

I believe that we need to step up our efforts to reduce energy consumption in the public service. Senator Noone has expressed her concern on the progress being made after her colleague Deputy Simon Harris submitted a Parliamentary Question on the issue requesting an update.

We are supposed to be reducing our energy consumption in the public sector by a third by 2020. That means we should be cutting back by about three to four per cent a year, but I am not convinced that progress has been swift enough to date. In response to a PQ on the issue, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD, outlined the targets set by the Government, but information on whether we are achieving these targets is not yet available.

A database of over 30,000 meters will be used to gather accurate information on energy use in the public sector, with a report on public sector consumption due to be published later this year. This report will set out progress made on public sector energy reduction. In the meantime, we must ensure we are doing everything we can to reduce our energy consumption and reach these ambitious targets.

This isn’t just about the environment, it’s about the economy too. Cutting back on energy consumption means cutting costs and saving money. I have great faith in the plan outlined in Delivering Our Green Potential, which was published by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation last year.

While the report focusses on the potential that exists within the green economy, it also outlines measures that will lead to greater energy efficiency. This includes simple steps such as switching to LED lighting to save energy. It’s estimated that most businesses could reduce their energy costs by about 20% with little or no outlay. The Government is aiming to take the lead on this issue by setting a target of cutting energy consumption by 33% in the public sector by 2020.

I hope energy consumption will be prioritised in the coming months as we seek to make our public sector more efficient. I am also calling for a debate in the Seanad on for energy consumption savings, in a bid to generate ideas.

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