I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 40 together. I propose to take Questiosn Nos 39 and 40 together.
The Government’s Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty was published in 2016. The Strategy set out several actions to alleviate the burden of energy poverty on the most vulnerable in society. The focus of the strategy was on high impact actions which aimed to make a real difference to the lives of those in energy poverty.
Good progress has been made under the strategy including:
- Free upgrades were carried out in over 23,000 lower income homes under the main SEAI energy poverty schemes;
- A consultation on energy efficiency in the rented sector has also been completed which has informed changes to energy efficiency grant schemes with further recommendations to follow later this year;
- Funding for SEAI energy poverty retrofit schemes has increased dramatically over the period from €15 million in 2015 to over €109 million for 2021.
- The allocations for retrofit of social housing have also increased significantly with an allocation of €65 million for 2021.
At the time of its launch, the Strategy was accompanied by a report on the level and extent of energy poverty in Ireland. This study looked at what the typical household has to spend on energy to keep their home heated and compared that to household income. This report found that in 2016, 28% of households in Ireland could be in or at risk of energy poverty. The ERSI published reports in 2019 and 2020 which calculated the current level of energy poverty. In 2020 the ESRI calculated that the proportion in or at risk of energy poverty had reduced from 28% to 17.5%. These rates align closely to the level of basic deprivation experienced in Ireland. A separate ESRI study suggested that energy poverty is primarily a function of inadequate resources to cover living costs rather than simply an energy issue. In addition under the Survey on Income and Living Conditions, the proportion of people who report that they are unable to afford to keep the home adequately warm, has fallen from 9% in 2015 to 4.9% in 2019.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform publishes an annual Public Service Performance Report. My Department provides input to this report annually in relation to the number of lower income households supported to improve their energy efficiency. The Department of Social Protection also provides input in relation to the number of households in receipt of income supports and the impact on the rate of poverty. The Report is submitted to Government for information and is published on the website of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Looking forward, the Programme for Government commits to providing €5 billion to part fund a socially progressive national retrofit programme targeting all homes but with a particular focus on the Midlands region and on social and lower income tenancies. This is in addition to €3.7 billion to support our retrofit targets in the National Development Plan. €109 million in exchequer funding has been provided tis year to support lower income households to retrofit their homes. This represents an increase of €47 million on the 2020 allocation for energy poverty schemes and means that almost half of the total 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. Recommendations aimed at improving the targeting of energy poverty schemes at those most in need will be finalised soon.
The Programme for Government also commits to ensuring that increases in the carbon tax are progressive by spending €3 billion on targeted social welfare and other initiatives to prevent fuel poverty and ensure a just transition. As part of Budget 2021 the Fuel Allowance will increase by €3.50 to €28 per week.
A review of the implementation of the Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty will be completed this year. Alleviating energy poverty will also be a key consideration for the National Retrofit Plan which will be published this year.