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Blog Post 17 August 2021

Decarbonisation in Northern Ireland: the potential of a one stop shop

As Programme Administrator of the Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme (NISEP), we know a lot about the energy efficiency challenges in Northern Ireland.

The recent Department for the Economy (DfE) Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland (NIES) is a key development, as it proposes a framework to address Northern Ireland’s contribution to tackling climate change that also enables a fair and just transition to a greener economy.

One of the five key principles in the strategy focuses on placing people at the heart of Northern Ireland’s energy future. Addressing this, the strategy proposes establishing a new one stop shop (OSS) client advisory service for all domestic energy consumers. An initial pilot domestic retrofit scheme would be followed by a more substantive offering that would later become the main interface on all energy matters in Northern Ireland.

We believe that the provision of free, independent and impartial advice and support for everyone should be an integral part of Northern Ireland’s energy landscape. Advice has a central role in boosting the market in energy efficiency and in driving uptake of new and unfamiliar measures in homes at a faster rate than would be achieved by the market alone. A one stop shop provides a streamlined advice model facilitating holistic lifestyle decarbonisation with the opportunity to eliminate duplication and gaps in provision.

In our strategy consultation response, we suggest that any one stop shop for Northern Ireland should be:

Accessible

Provide accessible information through a free, inclusive, multi-channel service.

Independent

Gatekeep different energy efficiency programmes, including NISEP, to guarantee impartiality and quality.

Tailored

Offer technical and behavioural advice and financial signposting on a case by case basis.

Expert

Deliver accurate and locally focused information across the whole customer journey.

Educational

Enable behavioural change and climate action through public engagement.

Data-driven

Follow data insights to develop service functionality and accelerate Northern Ireland’s energy transition.

Comparing one stop shop models

The one stop shop model is gaining traction in EU and UK policy as a route to consumer-led energy decarbonisation. While the one stop shop model is new to Northern Ireland, similar services are already in operation and may serve as useful case studies.

The EU Horizon 2020 project X-tendo identifies the one stop shop as one of 10 new features in the next generation Energy Performance Certificate, which aims to increase the rate and quality of energy renovations in Europe. Energy Saving Trust leads the work package for X-tendo, monitoring the indicators and data handling approaches through a number of test projects.

Home Energy Scotland, which we also deliver on behalf of the Scottish Government, is the most effective one stop shop model in operation in the UK, serving as an exemplar around the world in tackling fuel poverty and reducing carbon emissions.

Home Energy Scotland provides tailored advice and financial support on home energy efficiency, sustainable travel and low carbon living. The service focuses on the needs of the consumer, with information accessible in-home, online and over the phone.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland runs the National Home Retrofit Scheme to fund the development of multiple business and community led one stop shops in the Republic of Ireland. Initially advised in the Republic of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan in 2019, the scheme’s aim is to test and develop the best one stop shop model to meet energy targets by 2030. Today, several one stop shops are in operation, some providing services nationwide and others in localised clusters.

Getting it right for Northern Ireland

With the vast majority of 2050’s building stock already in existence, the Climate Change Committee advises that significant retrofitting of buildings is required to improve energy efficiency, reduce demand, and adapt energy sourcing. This is particularly important in Northern Ireland, where research from the DfE suggests that homes currently use more energy than anywhere in the UK or the Republic of Ireland.

Decarbonisation of energy in buildings is vital to achieving Northern Ireland’s climate targets, but it will be a big task. While there are generally higher levels of efficiency in its building stock compared to the rest of the UK, there is also high dependence on oil heating and significant gaps in gas infrastructure. With 22% of Northern Ireland’s population in fuel poverty, this task must also be balanced with the need to bring everyone along to access the health, financial and environmental benefits of warm and efficiently heated homes.

We hope that the vision set out in the NIES is adopted by the Northern Ireland Executive, as meeting climate targets in a fair way requires ambitious policies and urgent action. We are ready to work with the Executive to help make the changes needed happen.

Last updated: 16 August 2021