I thank the Deputies on the other side of the House for facilitating the enactment of legislation which is important but not controversial. The Bill is designed to revise, consolidate and expand existing energy legislation in order to reflect the current structure of the market. Its enactment will result in more robust energy legislation.
The Government amendments introduced on Committee Stage were, by and large, minor technical amendments that aim to improve the quality of the legislation. I have followed up on the commitment I gave on Committee Stage to Deputies Ferris and Ó Cuív to look positively, on Report Stage, at their request that a mandatory obligation be included in the Bill requiring that the proposed energy efficiency fund shall provide for specific measures to alleviate fuel poverty. I also acknowledge that I did not wish to be prescriptive about the fund's remit. The Government amendments agreed by the House today go a long way to addressing the issues raised by Deputies Ó Cuív and Ferris and are an appropriate compromise. I am pleased to have been able to facilitate the Deputies in the regard.
In the meantime and in conclusion, the publication of the affordable energy strategy at the end of November last proposes, for the first time, a framework that will combine national and geographically focused actions to improve the thermal efficiency of the housing stock, provide targeted income supports and ensure that comprehensive advice and information is provided to vulnerable and other groups affected by energy poverty. Since 2006, more than €81 million has been expended on providing energy efficiency improvements in over 80,000 homes under the Better Energy programme, which is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, on behalf of my Department. My Department and the SEAI had a target of 20,000 homes in 2011 and by the year end a total of 20,388 were completed. This equates to energy savings for recipients of approximately €2.62 million. The SEAI advises that over 5,800 full-time jobs were being supported in 2011 and we expect to support a minimum of 4,500 full-time jobs in 2012.
Energy efficiency is an area of increasing investment and innovation in Ireland. Improving energy efficiency will pay dividends for the environment, energy security and competitiveness. It will also contribute towards meeting our European target of 20% energy efficiency savings by 2020.
Again, I thank Deputies for their co-operation in advancing the Bill.