RSUA is calling on the Department of Finance to indicate when draft technical guidance will be published which enacts the Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) regulations in the way they were originally intended. Currently, buildings continue to be built to the energy performance standards which have been in place for years and for which technical guidance is available. The Department had been due to improve these standards in advance of 31 December 2020, in order to reduce the impact of the construction and operation of buildings on the environment, but has not yet done so.
RSUA first wrote to the Department of Finance and the Minister of Finance, Conor Murphy MLA, about the matter in June, and again in November. The law changed from 31 December 2020 and despite repeated requests for environmental leadership through updated Building Regulations and draft technical guidance this remains outstanding and leaves residents and building occupiers facing higher energy bills and greater CO2 emissions.
The Department for Finance states: “The Minister has committed to implement a local uplift as quickly as possible” but cite “a number of technical and administrative challenges in taking forward the proposals and we are unable to confirm a date for consultation at this stage”. The Department further states their “intention remains to bring forward an uplift within this executive period, if possible” raising the prospect this will not be addressed before the end of the current Assembly mandate which ends in May 2022, nearly eighteen months after the law changed.
Ciarán Fox, Director of RSUA, said:
“We are very disappointed that the Department of Finance, which have known about this incoming change for many years, has failed to even set a date for consulting on the improved energy performance requirements of buildings. This is now seriously overdue and, aside from the issue of poor administration, this ongoing delay carries financial and environmental costs that Northern Ireland can ill afford.”
“The Department of Finance needs to commit to a timetable for publication of this draft technical guidance in order to support wider efforts to decarbonise our society”.
The next Finance Committee meeting will take place on Wednesday 14 April 2021 at 2:00pm in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings The Committee will receive a Departmental briefing on its planned review of energy performance building regulations.