Every year, a significant proportion of home energy is wasted, writes Brian Cassidy, senior executive engineer, and asset climate action programme lead, housing maintenance, Cork City Council. 

Whether heating a poorly insulated home, using energy-hungry appliances, or having an inefficient energy source, these factors are all contributing to households using more energy than needed. Instead, imagine if this energy was saved. The impact this could have on keeping money in pockets, as well as the difference it could make in cutting harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

With housing accounting for a staggering one-quarter of all energy used in Ireland, as well as 25% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, home energy upgrades play a vital role in improving energy-use efficiency and environmental outcomes.

L-R: Dr Ciaran Byrne SEAI; John Moloney Cork City Council (CCiC); Cllr Deirdre Forde, lord mayor of Cork; Patricia Tobin CCiC; Brian Cassidy CCiC; Michael Canny CCiC; and Dr Padraig Lyons IERC Tyndall.


Now, with more than €8bn in supports available through the government’s National Retrofitting Scheme, the grant funding for homeowners to implement home energy upgrade measures is unprecedented.  

From taking crucial action on climate change and the biodiversity crisis to protecting against rising energy costs, and with the additional bonus of having warmer and cosier homes, there’s no time like the present to get started. But it can be hard to know where to start.

That’s where Cork city’s Home Energy Upgrade Office (HEUGO) comes in. In the case of retrofitting or decarbonising, to improving the efficiency of how home energy is used, individuals and communities can access the expert advice and guidance of Cork city’s HEUGO – an in-person service, located on Grand Parade, in the heart of the city.

The first of its kind in Ireland, this innovative collaboration between Cork City Council, the International Energy Research Centre (Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork) and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), has seen growing numbers access its services.

When seeking guidance on installing attic insulation (estimated to save up to €600 per year on home heating bills), as well as the installation of renewable energy systems and much more, the HEUGO supports homeowners from across the city and wider region.

Never been a better time to take action on energy use

With a range of grant funding available through the SEAI, for example, up to 50% of the cost of complete home energy upgrade solution for a typical home, and up to 80% of the cost for attic insulation through an individual energy upgrade grant, there has never been a better time to take action on energy use.

Alongside the recently announced planning permission exemption for rooftop solar panels, and the opportunity to sell surplus renewable energy back to the grid through the Microgeneration Support Scheme, upgrading home energy efficiency and transitioning energy systems makes good sense. Cork homeowners are seeing the opportunity for change.

As are Cork communities. The HEUGO also supports the creation of energy communities in the city. Whether part of an energy community or interested in joining one, the HEUGO can assist by guiding a community or connecting individuals that might otherwise not have been aware of a shared ambition.

Working together brings many benefits such as combining costs and saving on upgrade measures, to having an overall greater impact on the environment. The benefits can go further than front doors too, for example, the upgrade of a community building, or the installation of a public electric car charger.

At home and abroad, biodiversity and ecosystems are rapidly deteriorating under the strain of rising carbon dioxide emissions and the escalating climate crisis.

The good news is that homeowners and communities have the power to make a difference. Through an energy efficiency upgrade of a typical Cork residence alone, going from a C3 Building Energy Rating (BER) to a B2 BER, the government target for Irish homes, an annual reduction of 4,000kg of carbon dioxide emissions is made possible.

The achievable reduction in emissions brings into clear focus the substantial role of home energy upgrades in securing a healthy and safe environment and future for all.

Dedicated to supporting the public, the HEUGO is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Funded through UP-STAIRS, a H2020 project, INTENSIFY, an Interreg Europe project, Cork City Council, and the SEAI, the HEUGO services are available at no cost.