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Assembly Written Question 19916/17-22

To ask the Minister for Infrastructure what action she is taking to improve energy efficiency across her Department, arm's-length bodies, and departmental estate.

Answer: As Northern Ireland's biggest electricity user with a spend of over £30m per annum, NI Water recognises the need to drive value for money in relation to energy consumption and the moral duty to address the resulting carbon emissions. Therefore, NI Water has an ambitious energy programme for the next price control PC21 (2021 to 2027).

To reduce its usage, NI Water is creating an Intelligent Energy Control Centre to monitor, control and optimise assets; introducing enhanced sensors and meters; and upgrading pumps and blowers. It is investing to produce its own electricity and has installed 59 solar sites across Northern Ireland. The green electricity generated is used to supply water and waste water assets. NI Water is also developing innovative contracting mechanisms and technologies to improve how the business interacts with the electricity market and increase the amount of green electricity procured by the business.

Transport consumes 35% of all energy in Northern Ireland, therefore I am acutely aware of the role that public transport has to play in helping to decarbonise transport and improve its energy efficiency. This will be achieved through both a modal shift from the private car to public transport and other forms of active travel and the transition of bus and rail technologies from dependency on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as full electric and hydrogen propulsion. To support this aim, I have recently announced £66m in funding for 100 zero emission and 45 low emission buses.

Currently all electricity utilised by Translink is generated from renewable sources and it has also developed a strategy that has as an objective to migrate from the currently predominantly diesel only fleet to a zero emission energy efficient fleet by 2040.

My Department implemented a programme to replace street lights with more energy efficient LED units in 2015. To date, approximately 39% of the total street lighting stock has been replaced, resulting in a 24% reduction in energy consumption. This programme also delivers savings in maintenance costs due to the much longer operating life of LEDs as well as providing environmental benefits. I am committed to achieving further reductions in energy use for street lighting and I intend to make further allocations for LED retrofitting in 2021/22.

DfI now uses LED traffic signal heads when upgrading existing junctions and in all new installations. The use of LED heads rather than the traditional incandescent lamps produces a power and carbon savings of over 75%. All modern traffic controllers operate using Extra Low Voltage rather than 240v as previously used, this results in powers savings of approximately 60%.

A new method of “distributed” traffic signal installation is being trialled in the current financial year. Traditional traffic control systems use many cables to connect street furniture to the traffic controller each with multiple cores. A distributed system uses Intelligent components to significantly reduce individual cable connections and results in up to 85% reduction in copper cable usage.

My Department has developed a nine year rolling capital fleet investment plan, to enable fleet and plant to be procured that comply with the latest emission standards at the date of manufacture. As part of this plan, my officials will be monitoring the trial of zero emission vehicles and are also monitoring the development of hydrogen technologies as a possible alternative to fully electric vehicles where this is suitable. The Department has recently procured a number of fully electric vans in a pilot exercise to test their suitability for its operational functions.

I have approved the construction of two new Driver and Vehicle Test Centres at Hydebank, Belfast and Mallusk, Newtownabbey. Both buildings have been designed to achieve the BREEAM* Excellence standard. This has resulted in several Low to Zero Carbon technologies being incorporated into the design including photovoltaic cells to generate electricity for onsite use, heat recovery within the office Air Handling Unit, rainwater harvesting to serve WCs and urinals, solar hot water to assist hot water provision at the site and a pollution control system to minimise power consumption of the test hall ventilation.

*BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a sustainability assessment method that sets standards for the environmental performance of buildings through the design, specification, construction and operation phases.

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