Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, has called for a major overhaul of the national retrofit plan to ensure resources are rapidly deployed and targeted to those living in energy poverty and in greatest need of energy efficiency upgrades.
His comments follow reports in the Irish Examiner today that just 89 homes have been completed in the government’s retrofitting scheme, in stark contrast to the target of 500,000 homes.
Speaking today, Teachta O’Rourke said:
“These figures are shocking and fly in the face of the government’s targets. They expose how farcical the government’s plan to retrofit homes is. As we see too often with this government, the lofty targets and fluffy rhetoric simply aren’t matched by reality.
“It is clear that the government’s retrofit plan is not working. It is deeply inequitable. And it prioritises those with the greatest means over those in greatest need and excludes a huge cohort of households – those who don’t qualify due to high costs and those who don’t qualify due to strict eligibility criteria.
“A wealthy household can access €25,000 of taxpayer-funded grants for a deep retrofit, while many with far greater need cannot access basic measures such as attic or wall insulation.
“This prioritisation of wealthier households serves to add to the growing delays for those living in energy poverty, due to the fact that construction workers and materials are being diverted away from where they are needed most.
“The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme is aimed at the most vulnerable households, but there are now 9,000 people on the waiting list for that scheme and the waiting time has shot up to 27 months.
“Sinn Féin propose a fair retrofit plan that will help meet our climate targets, while also delivering wider social and economic benefits for workers and families.
“In our plan, we commit to significantly increase the retrofitting budget for 2023, and to target that funding at the poorest, coldest, and most carbon intensive homes.
“We would replace the Better Energy Warmer Homes with a new tiered, area-based, scheme for low-and middle-income households. We would provide funding of €182 million next year, up from the government’s €109m in 2021.
“This scheme would see free home energy upgrades for currently eligible social welfare recipients continue, and would also introduce tiered grant support ranging from 65% to 100% funded deep retrofits for low-and middle-income households, dependent on income.
“We would also increase the budget for local authority retrofits by 50% from €85 million to €127.5 million, in clear recognition that those in social housing are more likely to be at risk of energy poverty.
“The area-based approach of our schemes would see local authority homes, tenant-purchased homes and other private dwellings retrofitted simultaneously, helping to reduce wait times, labour intensity and deliver cost savings. This approach is currently employed in a very limited way in the Community Energy Grant scheme. It should be expanded.”
“We also propose a new €50 million retrofitting scheme for homes that rely on solid fuels for heating, which will particularly benefit households in rural areas.
“This scheme would help improve health and air quality, and at the same time reduce energy poverty.
“Whereas the government’s approach to solid fuel homes is defined by punitive action, from turf bans to carbon tax hikes, Sinn Féin will help put the alternatives in place .
“Finally, we propose a 75% increase in the solar PV budget, bringing that up to €24.5 million for 2023.
“We recognise that due to the high initial upfront cost of installing solar panels, even with the current grant, this option remains unaffordable for many people, specifically for those who would benefit most from lower electricity bills.
“Sinn Féin’s plan would both cut our carbon emissions and reduce energy poverty and inequality in our society.
“Sinn Féin government would deliver a fair and realistic retrofitting scheme which would make a real difference in the lives of ordinary people and for the planet. The government’s plan is high on rhetoric but fails to follow through in reality.”