Overall, the Government envisages expenditure in excess of €700 million in 2021 on a number of measures to support households meeting the cost of energy. 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 Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) energy poverty retrofit 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.
Income supports from the Department of Social Protection to help households with the costs of heating their homes have also increased. The Minister for Social Protection provides an estimated €300 million in 2021 for a Fuel Allowance payment, of €28.00 per week for 28 weeks, which is a total of €784 each year, from October to April, to an average of 372,000 low income households. In addition, the Minister for Social Protection also provides an electricity or gas allowance under the Household Benefits scheme at an estimated cost of €265 million in 2021. This is paid at a rate of €35 per month, 12 months of the year. The Department of Social Protection also funds an exceptional needs payment, which can include support with fuel bills in some cases.
Research undertaken by the Economic and Social research Institute shows that the proportion of households in or at risk of energy poverty has reduced from 28% in 2015 to 17.5% in 2020. The Survey on Income and Living Conditions also shows that 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.
A review of the implementation of the Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty will be completed this year and this will inform the next steps. Alleviating energy poverty will also be a key consideration for the National Retrofit Framework which will be published this year. Retrofitting of homes supports good physical and mental health by creating healthy indoor living environments with healthy air temperatures, humidity levels, noise levels, and improved air quality.