Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

New Retrofitting Plan and the Built Environment: Discussion (Resumed)

Mr. Seamus Hoyne:

I am not a fuel poverty expert so I cannot say exactly. Anecdotally, there is a cohort of building owners who perhaps sit outside the traditional cohorts the Deputy has spoken about, namely, those who are in social housing, those who are on fuel supports, etc., and who potentially live in buildings that could be upgraded, but their particular circumstances make it very challenging for them to engage in a retrofit process. Do we know where all those buildings are and who those homeowners are? Certainly not. We have, through the various mechanisms of the State and the other providers, a reasonably good handle on those buildings. The real challenge is implementation. From engaging with local authorities, I understand that the procurement and implementation of projects can be a challenge because of lack of capacity within a local authority to deliver retrofits and, similarly, due to the fact that the approved housing providers have a very ambitious plan in respect of the retrofitting and upgrading of buildings because they realise the importance of that and the overall benefits to them. For those homeowners who do not qualify for supports through the traditional means and for whom engaging with a one-stop shop or a retrofit scheme is beyond their means at the moment, the mechanism to engage with them will have to involve different financial tools other than the grant-led demand scheme the Deputy has spoken about. We are looking at loan schemes, as are the Minister and the Government. There have been previous discussions about other mechanisms to pay back the investment. As we ramp up the scale of retrofits, we can see that the inquiries the one-stop shops are getting are coming from those who are willing and able to afford the retrofits. In addition, however, they are starting to identify those who would like retrofits and who do not qualify through another scheme and for whom the national retrofit plan and the one-stop shop are the only avenue. A piece of work that could be done over the next year is to start looking at those people making inquiries to the one-stop shop who are not in a position to progress and what other mechanisms might be needed to address the needs of those homeowners.