We are currently front and centre in the delivery of the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland strategy, its social housing commitments, its €116 billion national development programme, in building out the massive foreign direct investment in Ireland and Project 2040. We are currently stepping up to deliver these ambitious strategies. We will also do so for the climate action plan.
However, it is important to warn the committee that delivering the climate action plan in addition to these strategies will require innovative programmes to help industry develop its capacity to deliver the deep retrofit programme. Certainty, in terms of an implementation strategy and grant availability, is essential so that the hundreds of SME construction companies that will deliver the retrofit programme will make the significant upfront investment required.
Achieving this ambitious strategy will require more co-ordination with industry and across Government agencies than heretofore has ever been achieved in this jurisdiction. For example, in 2016, DKM and Solas identified a potential demand for an additional 100,000 workers in the industry up to 2020. Since mid-2013, an additional 1,000 people per month have joined the industry and the demand for construction activity in infrastructure and housing continues to increase dramatically. The deep retrofit will require further expansion of the construction workforce at a time when we are approaching full employment.
Currently, the industry is partnering with Solas, the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and through the construction sector group, to increase the numbers of people working in the industry. However, it will be critical that the Government co-ordinates these actions and allocates resources committed to in the human capital initiative to developing and dispersing deep retrofit competence and other climate change techniques across the 45,000 companies operating in construction.
The climate action plan clearly identifies the significant scale of the challenge and how Ireland will achieve its 2030 targets for carbon emissions and key actions to achieve a net zero carbon emission score by 2050.
The Construction Industry Federation, CIF, worked closely with Engineers Ireland on its recent report, State of Ireland 2019: A Review of Housing Infrastructure in Ireland. We identified a clear roadmap, including financing skills, that should be put in place. Co-ordinated public investment in infrastructure is essential in delivering our new housing policy and it will be likewise for this particular programme.
The industry welcomes the ambition over the next 30-year time horizon. To have any chance of success, we need to start to make a series of concrete actions today. This will be challenging considering the 183 actions outlined in the plan. Action 43, for example, outlines the need for an analysis of existing retrofit actions and the identification of the optimal mix of deep and medium home energy efficiency upgrades across the country. This analysis will only commence in quarter one of 2020. This means that the delivery window for 500,000 retrofits will be closer to eight and a half years rather than ten.
The CIF also believes that, to be effective, any retrofitting scheme must address houses in their entirety from an energy efficiency perspective. If the scheme has too narrow a focus on single aspects of improvement, it will not deliver optimum results for the consumer, the industry, the economy and of course the environment.
As I have said this will require a huge amount of co-ordination between industry and several Government Departments, including the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Department of Finance, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. We are suggesting that an advisory group with industry, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is established with a view to implementing and monitoring against specific targets. I cannot stress enough the importance of giving certainty to construction companies so that they know there is a pipeline of work ahead which will encourage them to make the funding that is necessary for upskilling and so on.
In terms of developing the required certainty, it is worth noting that the existing pilot programme for deep retrofit is due to expire this year. Ensuring the SEAI is fully resourced to process applications for the current pilot programme is a necessary confidence measure. Industry responded when the pilot programme was announced with many investing in their capacities to deliver retrofit activity.
The recent example of the home renovation incentive shows how effective these sorts of measures can be for the industry, Government and citizen. Irish homeowners have spent more than €2,471 million in total carrying out 147,349 home improvement projects over the past four years. If the incentive is there, the capacity of the industry to respond is also there. It shows what can happen with the correct alignment between consumer, Government policy and industry’s capacity.
The retrofit scheme has the potential to underpin our efforts to build a stable and sustainable construction industry. This stream of work, and that included in the national development plan and Project 2040, can be used to give comfort to young people and their parents that there are viable long-term careers in construction. The Government, with industry, should also examine the potential opportunities for the development of apprenticeships in areas such as deep retrofit and the message that there are stable and sustainable careers arising in the industry should be communicated to young people.
The retrofit scheme could help resolve the growing divide between Dublin and other regions which is a major threat to our economic and societal well-being. I heard the Tánaiste talking yesterday about concerns over a hard Brexit and the potential loss of 50,000 to 60,000 jobs. There is certainly scope within the retrofit scheme to provide significant bundles of work for regional construction companies and these companies are dispersed throughout the country and across every community in the country. Having contractors delivering retrofit in rural and urban areas would provide an economic lifeblood to rural and regional towns and villages.