The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, administers the Better Energy programme on behalf of my Department. As I announced in the context of the budget, the Government has committed significant funding of €76 million to the programme this year. It will, therefore, continue to underpin economic activity in 2012, supporting at least 4,500 jobs and realising significant energy savings for households. In the current extremely difficult budgetary and economic environment, the programme is being maintained and will continue to deliver positive economic impacts and consumer benefit.
Grant levels for half the measures have been adjusted for 2012 in light of market developments and to ensure when necessary a better link between grant support and dwelling type. Support for external wall insulation, for example, was originally set at a level designed to stimulate consumer demand and the market development of this sector. It is increasingly clear from the pattern of grant applications for the Better Energy Homes scheme that this measure is in high demand. The adjustment to the external wall insulation grant reflects increased price competitiveness in the market and the relative cost of undertaking this work on the various house types.
There have only been minor adjustments to many of the popular measures, so for the majority of contractors and applicants there will be little or no overall impact. Applications under the programme received prior to 8 December 2011 will be eligible for the grant level at the previous grant rates.
The SEAI models levels of commitment and expenditure patterns on an ongoing basis which has enabled them to successfully manage their budget envelope each year. In addition, the Government's capital investment framework published on 10 November, sets the broad direction, level and sectoral split of capital investment of the years 2012 to 2016. Such capital investment is subject to relevant value for money arrangements, including detailed appraisal prior to the commitment of Exchequer resources.
The programme for Government provides a commitment to roll out a pay-as-you-save, PAYS, retrofit scheme after 2013, which is planned to replace the existing Exchequer funding for Better Energy Homes. The transition to market-based mechanisms by 2014 is complex and detailed work is under way by my Department in conjunction with all relevant Departments, agencies and the energy and financial sectors.
In relation to actions to mitigate energy poverty, I would point out that the Warmer Homes scheme remains open and free-of-charge to eligible applicants. We are introducing changes in the structure of the programme to reflect the Government's affordable energy strategy. Priority will be given to households considered to be in extreme energy poverty, that is, those who spend over 20% of their disposable income on energy. This initiative will ensure that those most in need will be the first to receive the benefit of energy efficiency measures.