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Select Committee on Environment and Climate Action debate -
Tuesday, 12 Jul 2022

Vote 29 - Environment, Climate and Communications (Supplementary)

Apologies have been received from the Cathaoirleach of the committee, Deputy Brian Leddin, and Deputy Alan Farrell. The purpose of today's meeting is to consider the Supplementary Estimate for Vote 29. I welcome the Minister of State and his officials.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members that they are only allowed to participate in this meeting if they are physically located in the Leinster House complex. In this regard, I ask all members to confirm prior to making their contributions that they are on the grounds of Leinster House.

In accordance with Standing Orders, discussion should be confined to the items constituting the Supplementary Estimate. I call on the Minister of State to make his opening statement, which will be followed by questions and answers.

I thank the Chairman and the committee for this opportunity to present details of the Supplementary Estimate for Vote 29. Our purpose in being here is to seek the approval of the select committee for the Supplementary Estimate, which will allocate €200 million to a new subhead B13 - emergency generation capacity in the energy transformation programme. The Supplementary Estimate includes €110 million in additional Exchequer funding, along with a reallocation of €90 million in forecast underspending within the Department.

On 7 June 2022, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, directed EirGrid, the transmission system operator, to procure circa 450 MW of additional generation capacity for the period covering winter 2023-24 through to winter of 2025-26 to offset a potential capacity shortfall of electricity supply. In order for EirGrid to be able to comply with this direction, it requires financial support from the Department. Legislation to ensure that EirGrid can carry out this direction, including the legal basis for the Department providing the necessary financial support, passed all Stages in the Oireachtas and was signed into law by the President last Thursday. For the avoidance of doubt, the public service obligation levy provisions in the legislation, which provide for a rebate to customers, will be dealt with through electricity bills.

The level of financial support required from the Exchequer in 2022 to allow EirGrid place orders on the electricity generation units and ensure that they are delivered and installed in time for winter 2023-24 is estimated to be in the region of €350 million. However, as the final level of financial support required from the Exchequer this year will not be fully known until later in the summer when all of the contractual arrangements are in place, it has been agreed that approval for the allocation of funding will be requested in two tranches, namely, the current allocation under this Supplementary Estimate of €200 million and a subsequent request later in the year for the balance of funding required. The second Supplementary Estimate will take account of the final agreed figures for the purchase and installation of the equipment, Transmission Use of System cost recovery and any further savings arising in the Department based on projected year-end expenditure.

As I have mentioned, the overall purpose of this Supplementary Estimate is to allocate €200 million to a new subhead B13 in the energy transformation programme area to fund the purchase by EirGrid of additional emergency generation capacity. The €200 million being allocated comprises: €110 million in additional funding from the Exchequer; the reallocation of €40 million from subhead B4 – residential-community retrofit programmes; €20 million in savings under subhead B11 – electricity credit; and €30 million from subhead D.3 – national broadband plan. The transfer of €30 million from the national broadband plan subhead was considered by the Selection Committee on Transport and Communications on Wednesday of last week.

Following the announcement by the Government earlier this year of an enhanced package of measures to support the uptake of home energy upgrades, demand for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, residential energy efficiency schemes has been very strong, with the number of applications received double the level seen in 2021. It is expected that the pipeline of applications will result in high levels of delivery for the remainder of the year. However, indicative mid-year results from the SEAI show a forecasted underspend at year end on the one-stop-shop and community energy schemes. While the targeted number of houses will be started in 2022, it is anticipated that not all of these will be completed and certified for payment in 2022 due to supply chain constraints. It is expected that the pipeline of applications in 2022 will result in strong levels of delivery in 2023.

The €400 million allocated to the electricity credit included a contingency to cover the possible cost arising from a growth in the number of domestic household accounts in excess of the original 2.15 million forecast. The final cost of the electricity credit was just under €380 million. This left savings of €20 million available to be reallocated to the emergency generation capacity subhead. I am happy to take questions from the committee.

I thank the Minister of State and open the floor to any members who may have questions on the Supplementary Estimate.

I thank the Minister of State for attending today's meeting. For the record, the Opposition has facilitated the legislation on the basis of the urgent nature of the crisis we face regarding the lights going out next winter. I have to say it is a very unsatisfactory process with regard to engagement and information. I have listened to Government Deputies speak about how much information was available. Every time we have had an exchange on this there has been new information and some answers but other questions remain unanswered. I want to make this point to the Minister of State, as I did to the Minister, Deputy Ryan. At a meeting of the transport committee last week I told the Minister the presentation of these as savings is quite the Orwellian move. They are missed targets as they relate to retrofitting.

I have a number of questions. We are dealing with €200 million out of a possible €350 million. Do we know from where we might expect the €150 million to come later in the year? I welcome the fact there is €252 million remaining for the retrofit budget. Will the Minister of State give us some details of what targets will be missed that have given rise to the availability of this funding? The Minister of State has pointed towards the one-stop-shop and community energy targets. Will the Minister of State give us the figures on what the targets were, what will be started and what will be completed by the end of the year? This will give us a sense of the progress we are making on the one-stop-shop and the community energy scheme.

Within this funding will the Minister of State give us an update on the warmer homes scheme? I know the target is 4,800 by the end of the year. I know that at the end of May we had 1,453 done. The Minister of State points towards the objective of getting to 400 a month. Are we at 400 a month? Did we do more than 400 in June? To get us to the target of 4,800 by the end of the year we will need to do an average of 478 a month. Is this another target we will miss by the end of the year? These are the most vulnerable citizens. This brings me back to my original question. Will we have an underspend and money available at the end of the year because we will have missed targets in the warmer homes scheme? I want to register a concern about the approach in government at budget time and announcing very high figures for retrofitting and then spending the rest of the year moving money out of this allocation, whether for the electricity credit or something else.

With regard to the reallocation from the electricity credit underspend my colleague, Senator Boylan, held a session last week on energy poverty. On Second Stage Deputy Smith and I raised concerns about the fact the electricity credit would not be made available to people in halting sites for example. We know there are other multi-unit residences that did not receive the electricity credit. We have €20 million being reallocated from it now. Will the Minister of State tell us how many people in halting sites or multi-unit developments did not receive the electricity credit?

I will endeavour to answer as many of the questions as possible. If I do not get to a question the officials will revert to the Deputy. He will appreciate I am not responsible for these matters. With regard to the lack of information I take on board the points the Deputy has made. I understand it has been widely discussed at this committee and other fora during the debate. These are not targets that have been missed. I said in my opening statement there were supply chain issues that will carry us into 2023 and those targets will be met. There is very buoyant demand for the energy retrofit and this is to be welcomed. It is important that these targets are met, if not in 2022 certainly in 2023.

With regard to the specific question on the €150 million, it will have to be achieved later in the year. The balance will come from Exchequer funding and any underspend in the Department at year end. It is normal for this to take place and it will be there. With regard to the reallocation of the electricity credit it is the case that the number of dwellings the Department had anticipated fell slightly short. This is why the €20 million was there as additional moneys. These are moneys that were there because all households had received it.

We will have to come back to the Deputy on the number of people and families in Traveller accommodation and halting sites. The Deputy has made a valid point. It is important. They are vulnerable low-income families and this is important. It is something on which we will get back to the Deputy.

With regard to the warmer homes scheme and the achievement of 400 a month, in June 436 were achieved. We anticipate we will be on target to achieve the 478 per month by year end.

The Minister of State is saying there will be €23 million from the one-stop-shop and the community energy scheme. The Minister of State has said there is strong demand and that the Department is confident the work will be commenced by the end of the year but it might not be paid. Will the Minister of State give us the figures on what the target was, what will be commenced and what will be completed by the end of the year? I want to flag the point of the additional €150 million. It comes back to the Exchequer and that is fair enough but there is further underspend. My concern is that we will be here in two or three months' time and we will be taking from the warmer homes scheme or another area of real need.

Does the Minister of State have figures for the projects in the one-stop-shop that were targeted to be completed and those that will be started but not completed by the end of the year and the same for the community energy scheme?

With regard to the overall retrofit, 8,600 homes were completed at the end of June. The target for 2022 is 27,900. There is a risk to this as I stated. This is with regard to supply chain constraints. We are confident-----

Yes, 27,900. We are confident that as we move into 2023 many of these issues can be addressed and we will catch up on those targets.

Does the Minister of State have a breakdown on the one-stop-shop versus the community energy scheme?

I do not have it to hand. If it is okay I will get the officials to revert to the Deputy with it.

I thank the Minister of State.

I welcome the Minister of State and the officials. I am interested to hear a little bit more about the cost of the investment in generating units for a short period.

It is a very different provision from the norm. It is a sort of outside-of-the-market provision. What penalty are we paying for going for short-term standby capacity compared with what we would have paid in normal auctions?

The second issue is what will happen at the end of the period. As I understand it, it is a short period during which we contract to have these units operating as a standby. At the end of the period what happens to the asset? Does it have a second-hand value? Is it likely to be sold to one of the existing providers? It seems to me that this is the sort of technology we will need, at least in the long term, that is, the capacity to come in with relatively small loads and to fire up quickly. It would therefore seem a shame if we were to pay a premium and then the capacity had to go again when we still would need it for the transition. I am interested to hear the Minister of State's view on that side of this.

As for the bidding arrangement now taking place, I recall the Minister stating that there is a time limit now in that this has to be urgently tendered for. Do we know at this point whether many bidders are coming in or whether it will be a competitive auction? Obviously, we would not want to find ourselves over a barrel in having to pay over the price. I would like to get a little insight into the costings and so on.

As regards the costs and the funding, and to take the second question first, regarding what will happen at the end of the period, my understanding is that we are looking at the period 2023 to 2026 and that, even at the end of that period, there will still be demand for these generators. I imagine, therefore, that the resale value of this kit would still be quite strong.

Does that fall to the State? Do we own the asset and then sell it at its second-hand value back into the marketplace or are we just contracting it for the three or four years or whatever it is?

I might have to ask officials to come back to the Deputy with a response to that if that is okay.

The ongoing running costs of the temporary generation would be paid for through the transmission use of system charge. The CRU has stated that the procurement of the temporary generation could translate into around an overall increase of approximately €40 in the average domestic bill for the forthcoming tariff year and a slightly lower cost increase of €25 in the following years of operation. These Estimates do not take into account the residual value of the units at their end of life, which would be subject to commercial negotiation.

In response to the question about the competitive nature of the bidding arrangements, again, I would have to ask my officials. I am not aware of how competitive the bidding is.

It would be interesting to hear how that will work out because the second-hand cost will, presumably, be very high. I imagine that these generating plants have a fairly long design life so, presumably, the State has a fairly valuable asset.

Is there any difficulty for the State, having procured this under this exceptional arrangement, which, as I understand it, is outside of the market or quasi-outside of it for generation, in then trading it back into our market such that it has been sort of screened away to avoid interfering with the competitive players in the marketplace? On re-entry into the market, the nightmare scenario would be that we would have a valuable piece of kit that we would no longer be able to deploy in the Irish system. Is there any barrier to its deployment in the Irish system after this period is over?

The Deputy is correct that these will be valuable assets with a long life anticipated from them, so there would be no difficulty selling them, but they would have to be taken out. This is about a transition towards our renewable outputs. Certainly, there would be no difficulty selling the equipment once we are through that period. It is about being able to have that additional capacity in the system and ensuring a security of supply for the State.

Maybe the Minister of State could send a written reply to confirm that the asset can be sold back into our network as opposed to having to be displaced and sold away.

Sure. We can do that.

I thank the Minister of State for coming in. I would like to follow up on what my colleague, Deputy O'Rourke, said about the €200 electricity rebate and the €20 million being moved from that. We were contacted by the National Traveller Money Advice and Budgeting Service about this. There may be only one meter on a halting site. The families there get one €200 rebate even though there might have been several families paying for the electricity. I do not think it is beyond the abilities of the Government to contact the local authorities across the State to find out how many halting sites this applied to and how many families are using electricity from one meter and to give each family a €200 rebate. I would like to know why that has not been done.

I also wish to raise the fact that we are moving money that was ring-fenced for retrofitting. I brought this up with the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, last Thursday. We were always told that the carbon tax revenue is ring-fenced, but in this instance it is not being ring-fenced but is going towards infrastructure for fossil fuels, I believe. We have to address that. It should not be addressed from the money that was ring-fenced for retrofitting. Public trust is affected when we are told that money is being ring-fenced and then it is moved to a different item. We are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. The Minister of State said that these are not missed targets, but they are. We might catch up, but if we are to catch up why is this revenue not being kept for retrofitting? Could the Minister of State explain those two things to me?

The Deputy makes a valid point about Traveller halting sites. That is a good suggestion. I am not sure if the Department has reached out in that regard. The Deputy is correct that a number of families in a group housing scheme or on a Traveller halting site could be working off a single meter. As I said in my response to Deputy O'Rourke, we have to establish that issue with local authorities and try to figure out what is the best mechanism for the rebate for families on Traveller halting sites.

Will the Minister of State look at that then?

We certainly will - absolutely.

Will he get back to us about it?

Yes, we will.

As regards retrofitting and the Supplementary Estimate, the amount available in 2022 under subhead B4 in respect of residential and community retrofit programmes is €252.86 million. That comprises €94 million remaining under subhead B4, €57.91 million in capital carry-over from 2021 and €100 million from the energy-efficiency programme.

Some €5 billion of the expected €9.5 billion in additional carbon tax receipts, along with the additional €3 billion in Exchequer funding, will be invested in energy retrofits in the period 2021 to 2030. That is a consistent and very significant increase in the annual allocation.

The consistent point the Government has made around the progressive nature of the carbon tax concerns its ability to deal with energy poverty. It is incredibly important from our perspective that the carbon tax is ring-fenced for retrofitting homes and particularly to support low-income families to move away from excessive energy dependency and fuel poverty.

We should not be squandering goodwill. A certain element of goodwill remains in the context of addressing climate change. Moving money that was ring-fenced for retrofitting to something else is squandering that public trust.

The retrofitting targets will be met. Regarding the carryover into 2023, those targets will be met.

I thank the Minister of State for coming in. Just so we are clear, all this extra funding is about facilitating extra gas generators for the winter of 2023-24. We were strongly opposed to this idea. This is mainly because we think, even if we cannot do this immediately, we will be able to improve the situation in the near future when we get the answers. Most of these funds will be going to feed gas-guzzling data centres. I would like the Minister of State to address this allegation. I have gone to a great deal of trouble to find the facts regarding the number of data centres due to come onto the national grid that have already been given agreements, where they are based and what level of power they will be using. I think we will be proven to be right in the end that this endeavour is about facilitating extra data centre capacity on the national grid. That is quite shocking.

My question to the Minister of State is similar to the last query. On the Traveller community, I was glad to hear him make a commitment about halting sites regarding how they can receive grant funding as well. It should be done quickly rather than leaving it until the autumn or winter. People need that money now. The funding for the community and residential energy efficiency schemes comes from direct funding and from carbon tax revenues. As far as I remember regarding the €8 billion it is planned to spend on the retrofitting scheme overall to 2030, some €5 billion is to come from the carbon tax revenues. It is to be ring-fenced, hypothecated or whatever word the Minister of State used. Concerning what is being done now, some of the funds must be coming from the increase in the carbon tax. If the Minister of State can show me that is not the case, I will be delighted. I will ask the question directly. Will any of the funding we are going to spend on gas generators in the context of this community and residential retrofitting budget be coming from the increase in carbon tax or, indeed, any of the carbon tax revenues? If it is, then it is scandalous that this Government is willing to dip into a ring-fenced carbon tax fund for moneys that are going to be spent on gas-guzzling facilities that are high emitters of carbon dioxide.

According to the Department’s own plans, the level of funding for community and residential retrofitting schemes is to ramp up dramatically in the next few years. The targets in this regard, however, are heavily backloaded and promise great things in the years to come. My concern, though, is the here and now. What is the problem with spending the money on energy efficiency retrofitting schemes in the here and now? It is a relatively small amount of money in the bigger scale of things. We all have experience of people in our constituencies who cannot access this funding, for one reason or another. Obstacles are put in their way, but these people require this funding. The lower socio-economic groups really need access to funding to bring down their heating bills. What is the problem in providing access to that funding now? Is it a capacity issue? Will the Minister of State commit to these people getting their funding as soon as it is possible to get the companies that are able or willing to do the work needed? If we cannot spend the money this year, then what hope do we have in the coming years when we increase the capacity and funding to deliver on the targets for retrofitting?

Those points have been well made in respect of the Traveller community. Concerning the increase in the carbon tax, I stated, and it is the case, that €202 million is to be allocated for retrofitting directly from the carbon tax in 2022. In respect of supplementary funding, €252.8 million is still available for retrofitting in 2022. Certainly, then, funding is not the issue.

Regarding the Deputy’s last question, as I said there are supply chain and capacity issues in respect of delivery. These issues are being addressed by the Government. Hopefully, these supply chain issues will be resolved as we move into 2023. The capacity to deliver in this regard centres on skills, apprenticeships and labour supply. These are issues that the Minister has worked on with the Departments of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and Enterprise, Trade and Employment to ensure we have sufficient people trained in the requisite fields to carry out these important works. Undoubtedly, the ambition is significant, but it will take time to ramp up to the scale we require to get these extremely important retrofitting projects carried out urgently in the next several years.

To clarify, will the Minister of State tell us how much of the extra funding in the context of the community and residential energy efficiency schemes is coming from the carbon tax?

I do not have that figure to hand. If it is okay, I will come back to her with the information.

Some of it, however, is coming from the carbon tax.

Yes, I think so.

It is important for us to get that figure. The big debate about carbon tax when we were devising the climate action plan was on the question of it being used to bring about a reduction in emissions and to bring benefits to communities and households in respect of a just transition in this context. Clearly, however, it is being used for the opposite, to ramp up-----

That is not the case. As I have given the figures, the carbon tax is a progressive tax. It is taxation being used for the deep retrofitting of our housing stock, as well as to tackle fuel poverty issues. Therefore, it is a critically important tax to aid in this progress around the retrofitting of homes.

The Minister of State has made my case. If that is what he believes, and he clearly does, then why would funding be taken from the carbon tax to facilitate gas generators? It would fly in the face of everything he stands for. The Minister of State did just say that some of the money is coming from the carbon tax.

It is important that we have energy security in future. What we are exploring is a short-term measure to tide us over the next few years as we ramp up renewables. What will ultimately address our energy security issues will be the significant ambition concerning and ramp up of renewables. Therefore, the Government is addressing a short-term challenge through this measure. It is important that we do that.

I will repeat the question. I know the Minister of State does not have them in front of him, but can we get the figures for how much of the extra funding in the context of the community and residential energy schemes is coming directly from the carbon tax revenues? I refer not just to the increased bit of the carbon tax fund, but all of it.

We can come back to the Deputy with a breakdown of those figures.

I thank Deputy Bríd Smith. As I was giving Deputy Leddin’s apologies earlier, he walked through the door. He is welcome.

I thank the Deputy for stepping in today. I welcome the Minister of State. To build on or to explore Deputy Bríd Smith’s concerns further, I would certainly like to see what the projected growth in demand for electricity would be in the context of the data centres that are planned and then what it would be without them. There is a narrative that we are building this extra capacity to facilitate these data centres. Unless we see those two projections, one for the forecast demand without data centres and then one with them included, it will not be possible for us to know how things stand. This is complex. My understanding is that we are building this extra capacity, and it is fossil fuel generation, to keep the lights on when renewable energy sources are not available. This is fossil fuel energy generation that will be used in situations when demand is high, especially in the winter, and wind and solar renewable sources of energy are not available.

It is capacity that will not be used very much. It is for that rare situation. One is probably talking up to a small number of hours in the year. Somewhat paradoxically, building this fossil fuel generation, because it can be dispatched, enables us to build more renewables. While it might be a bit counter-intuitive, this can actually lead to us having lower emissions than if we did not build it. I appreciate that the Minister of State is standing in for the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, but perhaps the officials could respond with those projections around growth in electricity demand with and without the data centres. That would clear up much of the confusion. The reality is that we are electrifying our economy and, data centres aside, there will be very significant growth because of transport and home heating becoming electrified, as well as very significant population growth. These are the reasons that electricity demand is growing. We need to really get into the weeds on this and show that this new capacity is not required to keep data centres going, because that is a very damaging argument and I do not believe it is true. I do not know whether the Minister of State wishes to comment, but I would certainly welcome projections with and without data centres.

I do not have the figures to hand but the amount to be procured has been assessed by both EirGrid and the CRU and is based on a number of factors, such as expected demand increases, including from data centres. However, the primary need for the temporary generation units is not to address the overall demand, but to meet peak demand on days when there is low renewable output and interconnector availability to address it. Having this reserve capacity allows EirGrid to have more confidence in scheduling network outages for new connections to the grid, such as new wind and solar farms from the recently-announced renewable electricity support scheme, RESS 2, list of projects, without jeopardising security of supply. This is very much in keeping with Government policy of delivering up to 80% renewable electricity by 2030. I do not have the figures for projections with or without data centres, but the important point is that the rationale around these temporary generation units is to meet that additional demand when there is low wind generation or interconnector availability. That is the critical point here.

Unfortunately, I missed the start of the meeting, because I had other business. I thank the Minister of State for coming in. I acknowledge that this is not his portfolio. It is disappointing that the Minister or the Minister of State from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications is not here, because there are many specific questions that will need to be answered. I will go back and forth. I have started to see "B2 equivalent" come into the terminology. While in the programme for Government, it states 500,000 houses to B2, I am starting to see B2 equivalent. Has that been a policy change? When and why did it happen? A change in policy will obviously impact the Department's ability to meet its 400,000 heat pump target, because heat pumps can only go into properties that are B2, not B2 equivalent.

The Deputy will appreciate that it is not my area of work. I think the B2 equivalent is a standard and is consistent with previously-stated standards. As far as I am aware, the target around 400,000 heat pumps is still on target.

My understanding is that if the Government is saying that it will be 500,000 B2-equivalent homes, potentially, 700,000 or 1 million homes would give one the same emissions savings as 500,000 B2 homes. Is that correct? Am I reading that correctly? The programme for Government, however, specifically stated 500,000 homes that were at B2 level.

There will be a note to follow on that.

With regard to the one-stop shop and the underspend, is €40 million being reallocated from retrofitting programmes under the one-stop shop, as part of these Estimates? Is that correct?

How has there been an underspend on the one-stop shop? What is the reason for that?

It is stated in the opening statement that really, the reason behind the underspend is supply chain issues in delivering targets in the current year, 2022. They will be met into 2023.

My understanding is that those supply-chain issues are still problematic. Is it not the case that there will still be issues for the one-stop shops which will probably go on into 2023? Is there still a risk that those supply-chain issues will be in place and the one-stop shops will not be able to meet their targets next year, either?

It is our anticipation that we will be able to meet the targets. We recognise that these supply-chain issues are global. They are not just confined to us here. The Government is trying to address them and we anticipate the situation will improve.

I do not know if I had my statements correct during the debate in the Dáil when I said that there was a 450 MW additional electricity generation and that there had also previously been emergency generation of approximately 200 MW from the CRU, that had been procured. Is that correct? What was the cost of that? If this 450 MW will cost approximately €350 million, how much did the 200 MW cost? Exactly how much will that add on to people's bills? How much did the 200 MW add on to people's bills? How much will the 450 MW add on to people's bills? We can have these discussions here about megawatts and emergency generation and peat generation, but what people want to know is how much additionally, it will cost them.

We will get a note back to the Deputy on that.

I raised it in the debate and asked the Minister to follow up, but I have not received a response. The fact that we are now having this discussion on Estimates where the primary focus of it is to allocate this money and the fact that the Department is not coming in with the answers to these questions that have already been asked of the Minister in the previous debate is not acceptable. It is unfortunate that the Minister of State does not have these figures. This the sort of stuff that we need to know if we are voting these measures through. Does no one have any answer with regard to how much it will cost?

I think the 450 MW will cost €40 per household. I do not have the figure to hand for the 200 MW.

One would imagine it would be €20.

That could be correct. I am not sure.

We are talking about approximately €60, which will completely offset the reductions in the public service obligation, PSO, figure. The 450 MW figure is just the start. The CRU has identified it could potentially be 700 MW. I can see someone shaking their head but it will be that, if the other measures are not in place as set out in its policy. If they are not implemented, we could potentially be looking at 700 MW.

One should be mindful that as well as the blanket measure around the €200 rebate, there have been targeted measures around addressing fuel poverty. The upcoming budget will address more issues for families and vulnerability around fuel poverty.

It seems that the Government is taking with one hand and giving with the other and that people will still be left disadvantaged by a lack of planning when it comes to energy demand.

While some of my questions have already been asked, I will seek clarity on certain aspects. On the €90 million savings, in response to a few questions, the Minister of State outlined the forecast of €23 million in savings from the one-stop shop and the community energy schemes. I also heard his comments about the target perhaps not being met this year due to supply chain issues but that it will be caught up with in 2023, which is understandable.

In terms of the retrofitting schemes, we heard about solar panels going into homes for those who have medical needs and, obviously, a higher energy requirement, as well as for those on lower incomes. Does the Minister of State have any specifics or data from his officials -I realise that this is not his portfolio - about the number of houses in respect of which progress has been made with solar panels, even down to attic insulation and draught excluders, and anything to try to improve the energy efficiency of homes in the calendar year 2022? Does the Minister of State have data on that?

If it is okay, I will refer back to the Acting Chair with figures on that, specifically on those low-cost measures. Again, I do not have figures to hand on solar panels.

From our perspective, it is frustrating that we are trying to discuss the Supplementary Estimate and yet we do not have the information we require. It is not the Minister of State's fault-----

I appreciate that.

I know. I refer to the better energy warmer homes scheme specifically for the elderly. I and every other member of this committee have constituents who have applied for these initiatives, which are very welcome, but there is a backlog in that specific scheme. I am sure if that is the Minister of State's experience too. Does the saving that we are talking about, the supply chain issues, relate to that scheme as well? Is it all the schemes operated by the one stop shop in the SEAI or is it a particular scheme?

It relates across all schemes given the challenges there have been not just with the supply chain but also labour. Certainly, deep retrofits take longer and there is a longer lead-in time for them as well. There are significant of challenges as we ramp up these schemes. The SEAI has been available to Deputies to give detailed briefings on all the schemes, and I encourage them to avail of that.

It has. Unfortunately, even after the briefings we still do not get a result. After the announcement of the improved grants, which was very welcome, the public responded with gusto because they wanted to avail of them, only to find that there was no capacity in either the one-stop shop or the subsequent suppliers. There are other issues curtailing the roll-out of those schemes so we hope to see an improvement on that in late 2022 and early 2023.

To return to the solar panels, this is something I raised with the Minister last week in the Dáil,. I hope the officials will refer it back to the Department. There is an expectation on the part of people, particularly those who are hard-pressed in advance of winter, to avail of improvements to their homes. We need to prioritise that.

I will turn to the electricity grant. The Minister of State highlighted the grant in the context of subhead 11. He indicated that the remaining unallocated funding by the suppliers must be returned by ESBN to the Department by the end of July. Was the amount €20 million?

It that because there was an overestimation in respect of the grant? People could not avoid availing of it. It was there in their accounts. I know that some could gift it back. Where did that €20 million come from?

My understanding is that they factored in an overestimation of the number of households. When the full payment had been paid out to households there was €20 million left over from that.

To go back to the point about the sub-meters, there was a fair point made about halting sites and other multi-unit developments. Some people did not actually get the credit for one reason or another. Perhaps they had moved house or they live in these multi-unit developments or dwellings. What is the process for them? Do the officials have any advice for how they avail of that credit? Some of them have not received it yet.

A number of Deputies raised this issue. We will refer back to the committee with a response on it.

To refer to the Acting Chair's, the SEAI is reviewing the end of June numbers currently and will revert to the Department shortly with specific detailed numbers for the rest of the year. That will give us a better picture of our position towards the end of the year.

There is a lot of information to come back to the committee following its examination of the Supplementary Estimate. Obviously, more detail on the 450 MW of additional generation capacity would be very helpful.

There are no further questions from Deputies for the Minister of State. I thank him and the officials for their engagement.