The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty. This scheme is funded by my Department and administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). To date over 142,000 homes have received free upgrades leaving them better able to afford to heat their homes to an adequate level. To qualify for the scheme recipients must be in receipt of a qualifying welfare payments from the Department of Social Protection.
There are currently over 7,800 homes awaiting works 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.
SEAI data indicates that for homes completed in 2020, the average time from application to completion was approximately 18 months, which would have included an impact of COVID-19 restrictions. For the same time period, the average time for a surveyor to be allocated was approximately 8 months.
SEAI have advised my Department that the average waiting times quoted above should only ever be used as a general guide and waiting times may vary, based on the demand for the scheme at the time of application. For instance, once the survey is completed and works are allocated to a contractor the time to complete works is dependent on a number of factors including the scale of works to be completed, access to the property, availability of materials, weather and more recently COVID-19 public health restrictions.
Funding for the SEAI energy poverty retrofit schemes has increased to over €109 million in 2021. This is an increase of €47 million on the 2020 allocation and means that almost half of the total SEAI residential and community retrofit budget will support people vulnerable to energy poverty. This funding will mean that more households can receive free energy efficiency upgrades, making their homes warmer, healthier and cheaper to run, in line with the Programme for Government.
In addition to the increased budget, capacity by the industry to deliver more activity has also increased due to a new, broader contractor panel to provide works which commenced at the end of 2020. I also secured additional resources this year to expand the capacity of the SEAI to allow it drive the various grant programmes that it operates, including the Warmer Homes Scheme, and to ensure that level of activity envisaged under the Programme for Government is delivered. My Department is also in regular contact with the SEAI at official level in relation to the operation of the Scheme. Recommendations on the implementation of changes to the scheme to better target those most in need will also be finalised shortly.