Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (1488)

Jan O'Sullivan


1488. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will facilitate the hiring of more contractors in order to reduce the waiting times for the SEAI warmer homes scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35053/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme provides energy efficiency upgrades to the homes of people living in or at risk of energy poverty. These upgrades are provided free of charge to the homeowner. The Scheme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) on behalf of my Department. The initial Warmer Homes Scheme budget allocation for 2019 was €24 million. However, following a mid-year capital review conducted by my Department and SEAI, the budget has been increased to €39.8 million for 2019.

Approvals under the scheme can be granted within a number of days of the SEAI receiving a completed application. The home is then scheduled for a technical survey and subsequently allocated to a contractor to carry out the works. The most recent data available indicates that the average waiting times from date of application to date of works completion is 8 months for shallow measures and 11 months for deeper measures.

Although the budget for the scheme has been significantly increased in recent times, the current very high level of demand does directly impact waiting times. This is partly due to changes to the scheme introduced in June 2018 which expanded and enhanced the range of energy efficiency measures available to include ‘deeper’ measures which are more expensive and take longer to install. These deeper measures can include external or internal wall insulation, central heating and replacement windows when the technical assessment considers them necessary. Managing the enhanced package of measures has required careful monitoring and programme management by SEAI within available resources. In addition, changes to the eligibility rules introduced in 2018 expanded to the pool of eligible homeowners to include those in receipt of the Carer's Allowance and Domiciliary Care Allowance.

The Warmer Homes Scheme is delivered through a panel of contractors, appointed through a competitive tendering process. The SEAI has informed my officials that it does not consider contractor capacity to be the biggest influence on waiting times at present. SEAI will however, be renewing its contract with Warmer Homes Scheme contractors in 2020, through a competitive procurement process.