Elderly and vulnerable people whose homes are in poor condition can get a “new deep retrofit” free of charge to improve them.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action, and Environment Denis Naughten made the announcement.
He said owners who are entitled to the “significant” upgrade under the Warmer Homes scheme would be those in receipt of the fuel allowance, Family Income Supplement, or One-Parent Family Payment.
“These deeper renovations will provide for solid wall insulation, mechanical ventilation schemes, and renewable heating solutions,” Mr Naughten told an Energy Action Conference in Croke Park yesterday.
Homes that only have the attic or loft insulated under the scheme could be revisited for the walls to also be done.
Mr Naughten said the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland is tendering for providers and, when the process is complete, its capacity to deliver deeper retrofits will have quadrupled.
Earlier, Mr Naughten said over 400,000 homes in the country are affected by fuel poverty and that he is intent on putting an end to this inequality.
“Insulation isn’t a single-issue panacea for poverty. But it ensures a person can live in a home that is warmer, more comfortable, and costs less to heat,” said Mr Naughten.
He said the Warmer Homes scheme would remain the Government’s primary energy efficiency support for those in energy poverty.
Mr Naughten also announced that the Warmth and Wellbeing scheme would be extended. It aims to improve the homes of adults and children with chronic respiratory diseases.
He said the world- renowned London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine would undertake an evaluation of a pilot scheme that was launched in Dublin last year.
“The aim is to publish world-class, peer-reviewed research which can be used to enhance it and ensure a wider rollout of the scheme across the country,” he said.
Mr Naughten also said he would publish a consultation paper “within weeks” to look at minimum efficiency standards in the private rented sector.
“I know the current rental market in Ireland is tough on tenants. The simple fact is that a person renting is more than twice as likely to live in a home with poor energy efficiency rating than a homeowner.
“In the absence of Government intervention, this will increase. We cannot allow a Strumpet City to re-emerge in the 21st century.”
ESB chief executive Pat O’Doherty said Electric Ireland had invested about €20m over the past three years in helping customers become more energy efficient. Customers’ bills had been reduced by €50m, with energy savings of 430GwH achieved — the equivalent to the annual consumption of 50,000 homes.
“About a quarter of this effort has directly benefited low-income homes,” he said.
An environmental expert who pioneered fuel poverty research in Ireland and Britain said almost 200,000 Irish households had the lowest Building Energy Rating (BER) of ‘G’ and need to be tackled first.
“It will take major improvements to raise their BER ratings to between A1 and B2, but that is what is needed to tackle fuel poverty in Ireland,” said Dr Brenda Boardman from Oxford University.
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