I thank the Senator for her interesting contribution. I will address her specific questions in my supplementary response but give her my written answer first.
Given the unprecedented rise in electricity and gas prices, reducing the burden of fuel poverty is a matter of serious concern for the Government. A suite of measures is being developed and deployed by the Government to help reduce the impact of fuel poverty in the short and long terms. The Government is concerned that recent electricity and gas price increases caused by international conditions are putting increasing pressure on consumers, particularly those in a more vulnerable economic condition.
It is important to recognise that these price increases are not caused by governmental or regulatory decisions, as price regulation in this sector ended many years ago. Suppliers compete with one another on price and set their own prices accordingly, as one would expect in a competitive commercial market. It is also important to point out that all European markets are experiencing these price increases. While Ireland has its own specific circumstances, the rise in energy costs is not unique to us. The most immediate factor affecting electricity prices in Ireland is the upward trend in international gas prices, which has brought them to an unprecedented high. In Europe, wholesale natural gas prices have been on an upward curve since the second half of 2020 for a variety of international reasons. Current indications are that these higher prices will continue at a significantly greater level than in early 2020 for the foreseeable future. This feeds directly through to retail electricity prices because the wholesale price of electricity correlates strongly with the international price of gas, given that gas is a primary fossil fuel used in the generation of electricity.
As well as the package of measures that the Government recently introduced to combat the increases in the cost of living, I am convinced that the roll-out of renewable energy will, in the long term, reduce Ireland's susceptibility to spikes in international fuel prices. The Government is committed to ensuring that, by 2030, up to 80% of our electricity will come from renewable resources. This renewable energy will help to protect us from fluctuations in gas prices caused by global supply and trade issues. In this way, we will increase our energy security.
The first renewable electricity support scheme, RESS, auction for onshore wind and solar projects was held in 2020, with 63 projects progressing currently. The next auction process has begun, with the auction scheduled to take place in May. It will deliver a major increase in renewable electricity generation by the end of 2024. A third RESS onshore auction is under development. The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications is finalising the terms and conditions of the first of three planned offshore renewable energy auctions this decade to deliver 5 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030.
The Government is tackling the impact on households of increasing energy costs through the tax and social welfare system.
This was set out in the budget in 2022. The fuel allowance is one of a range of income supports paid by the Department of Social Protection, which also includes general social welfare schemes and the living alone payment increases to support those living alone and at a higher risk of poverty, along with the household benefits package. Targeted supports are also provided under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme to assist people in certain circumstances who have special heating needs, for example, in the case of people with ill health.
Over the long term, the Government's energy efficiency and renewable energy measures are key. Government policy is driving investment in energy efficiency, investment in renewables, enhancing electricity interconnection and deepening the internal energy market. I will take energy efficiency as an example. Energy efficiency measures are not just essential to reduce emissions from our housing sector; they are also central to addressing the root causes of energy poverty and to improving health and social inclusion outcomes while at the same time contributing to decarbonisation.
Separately, grants for cavity wall and attic insulation will more than triple as part of the Government's response to the current exceptionally high energy prices. For example, in the case of a semi-detached home, the attic insulation grant is going to increase from €400 to €1,300. The cavity wall insulation grant will increase from €400 to €1,200. These are highly cost-effective upgrades. They are measures that can be deployed rapidly and at scale this year and it is expected that these works will pay back in between one and two years in most houses. The new grant rates will cover approximately 80% of the typical cost of these measures and will be available to all homeowners.
Using surplus renewable energy on the grid is another measure that could also potentially help alleviate fuel poverty and help our carbon emissions. One innovative technological solution that is currently being trialled is a solution between EnergyCloud and Clúid Housing, our largest approved housing body. The current project will initially see 50 families benefit. However, it is clear from Clúid and EnergyCloud that they have an ambitious target to support families in each of more than 8,300 Clúid properties throughout Ireland. This technology uses existing infrastructure in the home, such as a hot-water fuel tank, to receive surplus renewable energy at times when it is not needed on the energy grid. I welcome the trial and hope to see it become widespread in the coming years as just one in our suite of measures to help alleviate fuel poverty.