Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (199)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

199. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if his attention has been drawn to the delay in the provision of the warmer home grants due to increased demand; his views on whether this increased demand is due to a change in criteria; if he will allocate funding to meet the additional demand; if he will review the case of a person (details supplied) and expedite same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38639/20]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

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. Since the expansion of the scheme in 2018 to include ‘deeper’ and more expensive measures such as external wall insulation and internal wall insulation, demand for the scheme has been very high.  Wait times have also been impacted by Covid-19, particularly between March and June when the scheme was fully paused in line with Government guidelines. 

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.

Budget 2021 provided €109 million in capital funding to support lower income households to retrofit their homes through SEAI schemes, 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.

Individual applications to the Warmer Homes Scheme are an operational matter for the SEAI and as Minister, I have no role in such matters.  However, in reference to the case raised by the Deputy, my officials have been informed by the SEAI that the estimated timeline is mid-2021 for completion of a survey of the home and quarter 3 of 2021 for completion of works to the property.

The Deputy may wish to note that there are other grants and schemes available from Government that could assist their constituent if there is an urgent need. These include the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) Urgent Needs Payment available through the Community Welfare Service at local DEASP offices and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government Housing Aid for Older People Grant Scheme which is administered by the Local Authorities.