Seanad debates

Thursday, 8 February 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Energy Conservation

9:30 am

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Denis O'Donovan for raising this issue. It is obviously an issue which is close to his heart. He represents people in his area when he raises it here in the House. It is an issue that is cropping up in every county in Ireland.

I am speaking on behalf of the Minister. The climate action plan and the national retrofit plan set ambitious targets to retrofit the equivalent of 500,000 homes to a BER B2 rating in a cost optimal manner and the installation of 400,000 heat pumps in existing homes to replace older and less efficient heating systems by the end of 2030. To promote and incentivise the achievement of these targets, the Government has put in place a package of supports to make it easier and more affordable for homeowners to undertake home energy upgrades for warmer, healthier and more comfortable homes with lower energy bills. As part of this support, increased grants have been made available under SEAI-administered schemes.As part of the support, increased grant rates have been made available under SEAI-administered schemes. The better energy homes scheme offers individual grants and allows homeowners to take a step-by-step approach or to self-manage the project, while the national home energy upgrade scheme and the community energy grant scheme are aimed at homeowners wishing to undertake a whole-home energy upgrade to achieve a BER of at least B2. The better energy warmer homes scheme provides fully-funded upgrades to homeowners at risk of energy poverty.

Last year, demand across the SEAI schemes was exceptionally high. Indicative figures show that in 2023 a total of 47,952 homeowner energy upgrades were supported. This represents a 76% increase in outputs year-on-year. Of this total, 17,599 homes achieved a B2 rating. This represents an increase of 107% on B2 upgrades supported in 2022. Under the better energy warmer homes scheme, 5,897 free upgrades for energy-poor homes were delivered. This represents a 33% increase compared with 2022. Grant support for external wall insulation was provided to 6,110 homeowners in 2023 across the better energy homes scheme; the national home energy upgrade scheme, which is delivered by the one-stop shops; the community energy grant scheme; and the better energy warmer homes scheme, which is fully funded. Overall, 67,411 applications for grant support were received by the SEAI, equating to a 34% increase on 2022 levels. This indicates a strong pipeline and demand for works for this year.

The time taken for the completion of works varies depending on the scheme applied for. The better energy homes scheme and the solar PV scheme are demand-led schemes that require homeowners to procure their own contractors following grant approval from the SEAI. This approval process is instantaneous once requirements for the SEAI grant application portal are met by the applicants. Works must be completed within an eight-month period, starting from the date of grant approval. This is a reasonably short timescale where the homeowner is directly involved.

Under the national home energy upgrade scheme and the community energy grant scheme, homeowners engage a registered one-stop-shop or project co-ordinator, respectively, to manage the grant application process and oversee delivery of the retrofit work on their behalf. Works must be completed within 12 months of approval. Under the better energy warmer homes scheme, the average waiting time, from application to completion, for upgrades to homes completed in 2023 was just under 20 months. This is a decrease from 26 months for homes completed in 2022. It is definitely a very long timescale but the waiting period has been decreasing since 2023, and we hope there will be further reductions in the waiting times in 2024.


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