New national retrofit scheme set to be launched shortly

19 October 2021

A new national retrofitting scheme is set to be launched shortly, the Minister for the Environment told an Oireachtas Committee today.

Speaking before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, Minister Eamon Ryan said the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grants system for retrofitting will be relaunched within the new scheme that will be “announced and delivered shortly”.

Minister Ryan hopes the move will be a practical way of “reducing emissions, improving health and addressing fuel poverty, which is increasingly an issue because fossil fuels are so volatile and so expensive”.

The scheme will build on the warmer home scheme and is set to be bolstered by last week’s Budget, which allocated 109 million for retrofitting lower-income homes and 85 million for improving the energy efficiency of social housing.

In response to queries around the delay of retrofitting homes in lower-income areas, Minister Ryan acknowledged that there was a “back log and a time delay” but argued the hindered progress was partly because it is a “successful and welcome scheme.”

The biggest constraint for retrofitting, however, according to the Minister isn’t budgetary but rather is due to the lack of workers, “to deliver the project.”

“It’s getting the apprenticeships and getting the workers in place that is the key constraint at the moment, and that is the first thing. If we get that than we can continue to look at the various schemes and see how they might be rolled out,” he said.

“We need to move faster”

Speaking to investments put forward in last week’s Budget, Environmental Pillar coordinator Karen Ciesielski said the development was welcome but that the Government needed to act much quicker.

“We have a target of 600,000 homes to be energy efficient by the end of the decade. We need much swifter action to meet this milestone, particularly in the face of a rising carbon tax,” Ms Ciesielski said in response to the Budget.

Earlier this year, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight were also warned that local areas should not be inadvertently gentrified as a result of retrofitting by Executive Manager of TASC Climate Justice Centre Sean McCabe.

Due to the use of the HAP scheme, whereby local housing authorities assist tenants with rent payments, the potential increase in value of a property due to retrofits could have negative impacts on tenants in social housing.

“Once you start to retrofit houses, there is the risk that the property’s rental value goes up and so you would see people being moved out in favour of higher paying tenants,” Mr McCabe said.