I propose to take Questions Nos. 2168, 2172 to 2174, inclusive, 2178, 2227, 2234, 2273 and 2281 together.
The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme provides free energy efficiency upgrades to the homes of people living in or at risk of energy poverty. The Scheme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) on behalf of my Department.
In June 2018 the range of energy efficiency measures available under the Warmer Homes Scheme was expanded to include ‘deeper’ measures. Under the expanded scheme, in certain circumstances, external or internal wall insulation, central heating and replacement windows, can be provided where a technical assessment (by SEAI contractors) considers them necessary. These additional measures brought the level of retrofit into alignment with that envisaged by the National Development Plan, but changed the relative attractiveness of availing of other 'shallower' interventions. Managing the enhanced package of measures has required careful monitoring and programme management by SEAI within available resources.
The initial 2019 budget allocation for the Scheme of €24m was in line with the 2018 allocation. However, following a mid-year capital review conducted by my Department and SEAI, the budget has been increased to €39.8m for 2019. This will facilitate additional work allocations for CBOs and contractors in 2019 and the SEAI has in recent days been in communication with the CBOs in that regard.
The Warmer Homes Scheme is delivered through a panel of contractors, appointed through a competitive tendering process. Since the introduction of ‘deeper’ measures, some CBOs that are only contracted to carry out ‘shallow’ measures under the Warmer Homes Scheme, have seen their allocation volumes reduce. While the expansion of the scheme has been positive for the energy poor homeowners involved and for building capacity in the supply chain in general, it has had some negative impacts for contractors that are unable to deliver deeper works.
SEAI will be renewing its contract with Warmer Homes Scheme contractors in 2020, which will require all contractors to be able to deliver all measures, deeper and shallow. SEAI is encouraging all CBOs to apply for this contract and has been working with CBOs over the past year supporting them in upskilling and gaining experience to help ensure they can compete for the 2020 contract and that their organisations remain viable.
Building capacity in the sector is a top priority. However it is critical that we build capacity sustainably, ensuring that all contractors delivering these ever-increasingly complex retrofit projects are adequately skilled and resourced. The Climate Action Plan includes a number of measures which will build the supply chain for energy efficiency retrofits required to meet our 2030 targets including support for the development of necessary skills across the education and training system.