Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Questions (194)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

194. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he plans to provide extra resources to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland to enable it to reduce the current timeline for the processing of applications under the better energy warmer homes scheme which is currently approximately 24 months; if his attention has been drawn to the amount of unnecessary burning of fossil fuel this is causing and the physical and financial distress that the delay in processing the warmer home scheme applications is having on applicants who require urgent insulation works carried out to their properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43361/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty. To date, over 143,000 homes have received free upgrades under the scheme.  In the first six months of 2021, the average value of the energy efficiency measures provided per household was approximately €17,100. There are currently over 7,000 people on the Warmer Homes Scheme work programme. SEAI data indicates that for homes completed in the first half of 2021, the average time from application to completion was almost 26 months. The SEAI has advised me that wait times vary, based on the demand for the scheme at the time of application as well as other factors including the scale of works to be completed, access to the property, availability of materials and the weather.

The average wait times have increased significantly in 2021 due to the extensive COVID-19 related restrictions on construction activity in place between January and mid-April when the scheme was fully paused in line with Government guidelines.  Wait times have also been negatively impacted by challenges associated with availability and longer lead times for materials.

Funding for SEAI energy poverty retrofit schemes has increased significantly to over €109 million in 2021, with €100 million allocated to the Warmer Homes Scheme. 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.  The 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. I have also secured additional resources this year to expand the capacity of the SEAI to deliver the scheme. In addition, delivery capacity in the supply chain has increased due to a new, broader contractor panel that commenced at the end of 2020.  Every effort is being made to maximise activity now that construction activity in the residential sector has recommenced.