Thursday, 7 April 2022
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
141. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress that is being made in reducing the processing times and commencement of works under the free energy upgrades, warmer homes scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18744/22]
The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme delivers free energy upgrades for eligible homeowners in low-income households who are most at risk of energy poverty. It is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Since the start of the scheme in 2000, over 145,000 free upgrades have been supported. In 2021, the average cost of the energy efficiency measures provided per household had increased significantly to €17,100.There are currently just over 6,900 homes awaiting works on the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme work programme. This includes homes that are:- Awaiting the initial survey of their home;
- Have completed an initial home survey and are awaiting allocation to a contractor;
- Have been allocated to a contractor for works; or,
- Currently undergoing works.
Activity under the Scheme, and the associated expenditure, were significantly impacted in both 2020 and 2021 by the COVID pandemic. SEAI data indicates that for homes completed in 2021, the average cycle time from application to completion was approximately 26 months. While this delay was largely driven by Covid related issues, the deeper measures being provided under the Scheme since 2018, also involve more substantive works.
In order to reduce this timeline to completion, the following key actions are being taken:
- The budget, at €109 million, is nearly three times the 2021 outturn (€38 million) and funding has also been sought through the European Regional Development Fund;
- The number of homes retrofitted under the scheme are due to increase from 177 per month in 2021 to 400 per month in 2022, this is a top priority in SEAI's work programme;
- SEAI has allocated additional staff for the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme;
- SEAI is working to increase contractor output through active contract engagement and management.
Works under the Scheme recommenced in line with activity in the residential construction sector and activity did ramp up again towards the end of last year. Based on the foregoing, SEAI target clearing the homes currently on the waiting list in approximately 18 months.
143. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the progress that he has made implementing the deposit return scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18487/22]
The roadmap for the introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme for plastic bottles and aluminium cans was outlined in the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, published in September 2020. In November last year, I signed the Separate Collection (Deposit Return Scheme) Regulations 2021, providing the legal framework for the scheme, in particular the terms under which a scheme operator may be approved. The regulations also set out the obligations that will fall to producers, retailers and return point operators under the scheme, which will be launched later this year.The introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme will assist in reducing single use plastics, thus helping Ireland meet EU targets while promoting a wider circular economy. Materials to be included in the scheme will be those for which Ireland faces immediate, challenging EU recycling and separate collection targets. The scheme will therefore focus on plastic bottles and aluminium beverage cans. Recycling rates in Ireland for glass are significantly above current EU targets.
The Regulations provide that other materials may be considered for inclusion in the Deposit Return Scheme when the scheme is fully established.