The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty. The 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 leaving them better able to afford to heat their homes to an adequate level. The approximate average value of the energy efficiency measures provided to a household under the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme was €14,800 in 2020. I have secured additional resources this year to expand the capacity of the SEAI to deliver the scheme. Funding for the energy poverty retrofit schemes has also increased to over €109 million in 2021. This is an increase of €47 million on the 2020 allocation. In addition, delivery capacity has increased due to a new, broader contractor panel that commenced at the end of 2020.
There are currently over 7,800 homes including 71 homes in Longford and 188 homes in Westmeath on the Warmer Homes work programme. The scheme operates nationally on a first come first served basis. SEAI data indicates that for homes completed in 2020, the average time from application to completion was approximately 18 months in Longford, Westmeath and nationally. The average wait times are expected to increase significantly in 2021 due to the extensive COVID-19 related restrictions on construction activity between March and June of last year as well as between January and 12 April of this year when the scheme was fully paused in line with Government guidelines. Works under the scheme has now recommenced in line with activity in the residential construction sector.
The SEAI has advised me that the average wait times should only ever be used as a general guide and 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.
A further €112.5 million will be spent on expanding other existing SEAI residential and community grant schemes and introducing new initiatives. This will support an increased level of retrofit activity in 2021.