The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme is funded by my Department and administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty. To date over 142,000 homes have received free upgrades under the scheme, leaving the occupants better able to afford to heat their homes to an adequate level. My Department is in regular contact with the SEAI at official level in relation to the operation of the Warmer Homes scheme and I emphasised the need for a strong focus on delivery across all of the SEAI retrofit programmes during a recent meeting with the incoming Chair of the Authority. There are currently over 7,000 homes on the Warmer Homes Scheme work programme. This includes homes that are: currently undergoing works; have been allocated to contractors for works; have completed an initial home survey and are awaiting allocation to a contractor, or are awaiting the initial survey of their home. Eligible homes are allocated on a first come, first served basis, and the average time between application and survey is now 21 months. The wait time is a result of strong demand for what is an extremely popular scheme. The work programme was also negatively impacted by Covid-19, particularly between March and June when the scheme was fully paused in line with Government guidelines.
Budget 2021 provides €109 million in capital funding to support lower income households to retrofit their homes with €100 million of this funding allocated to the Warmer Homes Scheme. This is the largest budget ever for this purpose. It is expected that this funding will support free energy efficiency upgrades for up to 5,800 lower income households, in line with the programme for Government. Capacity by the industry to deliver increased activity will also be increased due to a new, broader contractor panel to provide works commencing this month. Recommendations on the implementation of changes to the scheme to better target those most in need will also be finalised shortly.
Another important announcement made as part of Budget 2021 was the designation of SEAI as the National Retrofit Office and the allocation of additional resources to drive delivery of our retrofit targets. SEAI has already commenced a recruitment process in that regard. Improvements to the processes that apply to individual schemes are made on an ongoing basis.