Over-promising and under-delivering has been a recurring theme of this government.

The government has promised that 500,000 homes will be retrofitted by 2030, but there is little clarity on how this target will be delivered in the plan announced today, according to Social Democrats Climate Spokesperson Jennifer Whitmore.

“The government has set a target of retrofitting 500,000 homes by 2030, but there is little clarity on how this pledge can be achieved in the plan that was announced today.

“To reach this target, approximately 62,500 homes need to be retrofitted every year for the next eight years. Last year, just 15,457 homes were retrofitted under all of the SEAI schemes. Incredibly, just 10 homes underwent a deep retrofit in 2021. Is it remotely credible that an additional 50,000 homes can be retrofitted this year under this revised scheme?

“There are three major barriers to the government’s plans: the large upfront cost to householders that a deep retrofit will still entail; the lack of qualified construction workers to do the work; and the lack of clarity surrounding the government’s proposed low-cost loan scheme, the details of which will not be announced until the autumn.

“If we are to reach our climate action targets, and reduce the impact of fuel poverty on those low-income families who are currently struggling to heat their homes, it is crucial that we get this right. Retrofitting homes cannot just be the preserve of a minority who can afford the work. State supports must be targeted at those who would otherwise be unable to retrofit their homes.

“We know that those on low incomes, and pensioners, spend a disproportionately large amount of their income on energy costs. These people have also been particularly vulnerable to recent energy price shocks, which have left many making invidious choices about whether they should heat their homes or put food on the table.

“A national retrofitting plan could make a hugely important difference to these people, but to do so it must work for the many – not just the few. The government has said it intends to spend €5 billion on retrofitting over the coming years, but the budget for this year is just a tiny fraction of this – €202 million from carbon tax revenue. When does it intend to ramp up spending, as it must to deliver its targets?

“Of crucial importance also is the lack of qualified construction staff to do this work. The Construction Industry Federation has already raised concerns about whether the requisite number of construction workers exist to simultaneously build new homes and deliver on ambitious retrofitting targets. The government has dismissed these concerns, without providing any real detail on how these twin demands can be achieved.

“Finally, the failure to provide any clarity on a central plank of this plan, the low cost loans, is a major failing. It is not clear why the government was unable to provide this detail, given the retrofitting targets were included in the programme for government and are now nearly two years old.

“Over-promising and under-delivering has been a recurring theme of this government. Unless barriers to access are addressed, the national retrofitting scheme will also be doomed to disappoint and under-deliver.”

8 February, 2022


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