The Deputy is correct that this is a critical issue for our people. The most important factor affecting electricity prices in Ireland is the continuing upward trend in international gas prices, which is affecting electricity prices across Europe and the world. Nevertheless, it is true that Ireland has higher electricity prices than the EU average. In addition to Ireland's fossil fuel dependency, which is one of the reasons, it is due to a number of other factors, including geographical location, economies of scale and high population dispersion. In the longer term, deepening our interconnection with the EU energy market via increased interconnection and realising the full potential of our indigenous renewable energy resources is essential to addressing these structural issues.
The Government has already taken action, including: the €400 million electricity costs emergency benefit scheme that was introduced this year; increases to fuel allowance so that, for this fuel allowance year, recipients receive a total of €1,139 compared to €735 in 2020-2021; and targeted energy efficiency measures, which are critical. This year, 58%, or some €203 million, of the total Government retrofit budget of €352 million will be spent on dedicated energy poverty retrofit supports and local authority retrofits. This includes a new targeted €20 million scheme for the installation of photovoltaic, PV, panels for households that have a high reliance on electricity for medical reasons, and a reduction in VAT from 13.5% to 9% on gas and electricity bills from the start of May until the end of October.
In April, the Government published the national energy security framework, NESF. Response 6 of the framework tasks the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, with implementing a package of measures to enhance protections for financially vulnerable customers and customers in debt by quarter 3 of this year.