The Better Energy Warmer Homes 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 under the scheme, leaving the occupants better able to afford to heat their homes to an adequate level. In 2019, €39.8 million was allocated to the Scheme with over 3,000 homes upgraded. Budget 2020 announced a budget allocation for the scheme of €52.8 million. This represents the biggest ever budget for the Warmer Homes Scheme. Although the budget for the scheme has been significantly increased in recent times, the current very high level of demand does directly impact waiting times. Prior to COVID-19 disruptions, the waiting time on the Warmer Homes Scheme, from application to completion of works, was between 18 and 24 months. In line with Government COVID-19 guidelines, the scheme was fully paused between March and June. Works have recommenced for homes that can be categorised as lower risk, subject to homeowner consent, though some restrictions continue to apply. COVID-19 has therefore negatively impacted waiting times. SEAI has further advised that average waiting times 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. SEAI are continuing to work through applications on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Climate Action Plan includes a commitment to review ways to improve how current energy poverty schemes target those most in need, including how to reduce waiting times. Recommendations in relation to the implementation of changes to the scheme will be finalised shortly.
The July Stimulus commits to increasing the SEAI budget by €100 million in 2021. This additional funding will be focused on community retrofit schemes, retrofit schemes supporting those in energy poverty as well as other initiatives to support the achievement of our retrofit targets. The funding supported the first call for projects under the new National Homes Retrofit Scheme which was launched last week (25 September). This scheme is suitable for one-stop-shops, residential service providers, employers, financial institutions, Approved Housing Bodies and local authorities. Details are available at: www.seai.ie.
Additional detail on other new and expanded schemes as well as an increased allocation for the Warmer Homes Scheme will be announced in the coming weeks. The additional funding will enable an increased level of activity which will positively impact the waiting list.