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Action Renewables Energy Association presents: Carbon Management, decarbonising the way to a greener future.

- categories: events blog

Action Renewables Energy Association presents: Carbon Management, decarbonising the way to a greener future.

On May 14th 2019, AREA was pleased to present Carbon Management: decarbonising the way to a greener future. Held at Mossley Mill, guest speakers Andy Frew, Philip Thompson, Tony Schmidt, Sarah Lynch and Dr Jonathan Bell shared their knowledge of carbon management techniques, technologies, and the changes their organisations are making to help reduce carbon emissions in Northern Ireland.

"Upgrading the energy performance of Northern Ireland’s homes is essential to meet environmental demands, and housing needs of existing and future generations."

Andy Frew, Technical Innovation Manager at the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), opened the seminar by discussing the climate change emergency, recently declared by the UK government. Stating that 34,000 of NIHE’s 86,500 tenanted homes still use heating oil, Andy announced that the NIHE is now looking at several strategies to reduce dependency on the high-carbon fuel. Acknowledging that the strategies are not only vital for the decarbonisation of Northern Ireland, he revealed that they are also crucial to tackling NI’s issue of fuel poverty. 

Andy discussed the fact that some technologies, such as heat pumps, may not be a viable option to tackle the issue, due to cost, and so the NIHE are instead interested in a ‘fabric-first’ approach. He indicated the importance of insulation as a first step to upgrading the energy performance of NI homes, as doing so has the advantage of flattening a property’s energy usage throughout the year, in-turn preventing the energy spikes currently happening in many NI homes.

Andy also spoke about the benefits of introducing ‘duel fuel’ devices, stating that installing technology such as mini immersions into radiators, would allow homes to separate their heating systems into zones, only heating the areas required. Looking to the future of NI homes, Andy concluded that providing access to well-designed, energy efficient homes is critical to meeting the individual needs of the people of NI, essential to hitting climate change targets and necessary in creating a sustainable environment for future generations.

“We are focussed on sustainability, efficiency and innovation.”

Philip Thompson, Director of Operations at Mid & East Antrim Borough Council (MEABE), spoke about the council’s recent amalgamation, which has joined together a Borough now comprised of over 56,000 homes, covering a diverse geographical area. With new plans to integrate its environment management system, Philip outlined that the council has renewed its interest in carbon management and is putting in place targets focussed on key areas of waste, electricity usage and water consumption.

Discussing each area, Philip stated that the aim is to minimise and reduce water consumption, using boreholes, alongside the possibility of introducing Route Optimisation Systems and electric vehicles, to reduce fuel expenses - currently costing £800,000 per annum. Expanding on the area of waste, Philip revealed landfill is presently a £4million financial drain on councils. In line with its targets, MEABE is working on completing the construction of a waste plant in Mallusk, which when up and running, will be able to utilise the waste by generating electricity for an estimated 33,000 homes.  Looking forward, Philip announced that with the council’s renewed interest in carbon management, and plans to eventually become carbon neutral, its overall corporate plan is centred around sustainability, efficiency and innovation.

“At QUB, we want to make carbon management engaging and fun for both staff and students.”

Tony Schmidt and Sara Lynch, Managers within Queen’s University Belfast’s key services team, presented a case study of the university’s current carbon management plan. Tony, the Energy Efficiency Manager at Queen’s, first gave an overview of the estate, stating that it is over 60 hectares, with over 230 individual buildings and multiple points of supply for utilities. Like a small town in many ways, he revealed that Queen’s carbon management plan was introduced in 2009, as a result of the European Commission’s call-to-action in 2008.

At the time of introducing the plan, Tony stated that they decided to focus primarily on energy, waste management and water. By installing an energy management system, they were able to ascertain where they were using the most energy, and put in place reduction targets. Tony announced that the university has spent over £9.5 million, between energy efficiency projects and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) projects, saving approx. 11,089 tonnes of carbon dioxide so far.

Sara, the Environmental Manager at Queen’s, discussed the university’s ‘Green Network’ scheme, which aims to empower staff and students to make an individual and collective difference to the environment, and help the university in becoming a low carbon organisation. So far, the scheme has seen several initiatives, including collections for the South Belfast foodbank, and the introduction of a medicinal garden at Queen’s School of Medicine. Sara also revealed that the university has introduced a new £20,000 Green Fund initiative. Launched in February 2019, it has helped get 23 green idea applications, submitted by staff and students, off-the-ground.

Sara and Tony highlighted several awards Queen’s received for its efforts so far; including a Gold Standard recognition from the Cycling Employers Federation. Finally, they concluded that as the awareness of climate change increases, the importance of not only having a plan, but the right plan in place, one that is reflective of Queen’s reputation and one that is making a real change, is crucial to the future of the university as a global educational hub.

“Northern Ireland cannot prosper without a policy approach.”

Dr Jonathan Bell, Policy and Projects Manager at the Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL), closed the event with his presentation on the importance of understanding the land and energy use challenges of Northern Ireland. Dr Bell began by acknowledging that the recent boom in tourism, coupled with no strategic approach regarding how land is efficiently utilised for housing, is causing the depletion of land and affecting the quality of Northern Ireland’s water. He emphasised this by stating that at present, under 30% of Northern Ireland’s river water bodies fall under ‘good ecological status’.

Turning to energy, Dr Bell pointed out that whilst NI has been successful in sourcing 34.8% of its electricity supply from renewables, the region remains highly dependent on fossil fuels. He stated that even NI’s growth in renewables is now beginning to reach a plateau. Unlike the rest of the UK, that must comply with the Climate Change Act of 2008, NI is currently only required to contribute. Dr Bell noted that time is of the essence for a long-term policy vision for NI; stating that policies need to address phasing out coal, introduce incentives for low-carbon heating, and the creation of a strategic energy framework beyond 2020, to name but a few. He concluded that critical action needs to be taken, to change the current policy stagnation in NI, as failing to do so will cause Northern Ireland to get left behind in the battle against climate change.

If you would like to find out more about this event and/or joining the Action Renewables Energy Association, you can get in touch with Ian Gordon on 028 9072 7777 or email

Take a look at AREA’s Proposal for a Renewable Future.

Proposal for a Renewable Future
Dearbhla Boyle

Dearbhla Boyle
Marketing Executive


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