Sinn Féin spokesperson on Climate Action, Darren O’Rourke TD, has said the party’s Alternative Budget will include a significant increase in the retrofitting budget, and will crucially redirect the focus and resources of retrofitting to those living in energy poverty and in greatest need of energy efficiency upgrades.
The Meath East TD was speaking ahead of a Sinn Féin motion on retrofitting, which will be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday, and the party’s Alternative Budget, which will be launched on Friday.
Teachta O’Rourke said:
“The government’s retrofit plan is deeply inequitable; it prioritises those with the greatest means over those in greatest need.
“It excludes a huge cohort of households; those who don’t qualify for free upgrades, but also don’t have the significant cash reserves needed to access the One Stop Shop service.
“A wealthy household can access €25,000 of taxpayer-funded grants for a deep retrofit, irrespective of their income, while the best that most people on lower incomes can hope for is a roll of subsidised attic insulation.
“The prioritisation of wealthier households also contributes to the growing delays for those living in energy poverty as 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 that waiting list and the wait time has shot up to 27 months.
“We need 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 Alternative Budget, we are proposing 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 scheme for low- and middle-income households, which includes area-based components, and increase funding from the current €109m to €182m next year.
“This scheme would see free home energy upgrades for currently eligible social welfare recipients continue, but also introduce tiered grant support ranging from 65% to 100% funded deep retrofits for low- and middle-income households, dependent on income.
“We would increase the budget for local authority retrofits by 50% from €85m to €127.5m, as those in social housing are more likely to be at risk of energy poverty and therefore in greater need of home energy upgrades.
“The area-based components of our schemes are complementary and will operate alongside each other in practice. It would see local authority homes, tenant-purchased homes and other private dwellings – often located in close proximity – be retrofitted simultaneously, helping to reduce wait times, labour intensity and deliver cost savings.
“We will also be proposing a new €50m 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, at the same time as reducing energy poverty.
“Given that solid fuels are among the most carbon intensive fuels – emitting almost twice as much emissions as natural gas – the retrofit of solid fuel homes will also maximise our emissions reductions.
“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 first.
“We would establish a Local Energy Action Fund that would provide €8m for Sustainable Energy Communities to fund local community-led group retrofits.
“Finally, we will be proposing a 75% increase in funding for the solar PV budget, bringing that budget up to €24.5m 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 the most from lower electricity bills.
“Therefore, we will restructure the funding of solar PVs by providing tiered supports, ranging from 100% to 10% of the cost depending on household income. This would help thousands more households install solar PV next year, bringing down their bills and emissions.
“In our Alternative Budget, Sinn Féin will be bringing forward a host of costed, climate action initiatives, that would both cut our carbon emissions and reduce energy poverty and inequality in our society.”
Sinn Féin’s Dáil motion on retrofitting can be read here.
Sinn Féin’s fairer retrofit plan can be read here; https://www.sinnfein.ie/files/2022/A_Fairer_Retrofit_Plan.pdf