Free energy upgrades for the vulnerable

Denis Naughten

Elderly and vulnerable people whose homes are in poor condition can get their walls insulated and their windows replaced free of charge.

Denis Naughten, the minister for communications, climate action and environment, made the announcement at the Energy Action conference in Dublin yesterday.

Mr Naughten said he wanted to ensure that those who were unable to invest further in their homes were not left behind.

The warmer homes scheme is Ireland’s primary grant support scheme for households in energy poverty.

Free energy efficiency upgrades are provided to vulnerable householders so their homes are warmer and cheaper to heat.

Among people entitled to the upgrade would be those in receipt of the fuel allowance, family income supplement, or one-parent family payment.

Mr Naughten said he had allocated €24m to the warmer homes scheme this year.

Up to now, they had primarily focused on supporting “shallower measures” with the scheme.

“It has been the sensible starting point,” he said.

Last year, the scheme was expanded to provide deeper retrofit measures in homes in particularly poor condition. Mr Naughten said they must now take “the extra step” and reach for even greater energy and carbon savings, especially for homes that are harder to treat.

The minister said the scheme would now support all types of wall insulation, including external insulation, and replacement windows.

“Not only will this see the scheme reach homes that could not previously receive works, but they can now be provided with a deeper upgrade.

“This is what we have to do to place our residential housing stock on the right, low carbon trajectory for 2050. Every home counts.

“Critically, by providing these deeper insulation measures under the warmer homes scheme, where heating systems need to be installed or old fossil fuel systems replaced, we will now create the opportunity to install clean renewable heating technologies.”

Mr Naughten said it was further progress on the decision he made at the end of last year to move away from grant supports for fossil fuels to renewables.

“We will do this where it’s the best technical solution for the house and where the householder is comfortable with that solution,” said the minister.

An environmental expert who pioneered fuel poverty research in Ireland in Britain told the conference that tackling energy poverty was in everyone’s interest.

“Tackling energy poverty makes for more comfortable, happier people, less physical and mental ill-health, better school attendance and fewer indebted households,” said Dr Brenda Boardman from Oxford University.

Her “bottom-up” approach is based on a lifetime of research showing how cold homes are expensive, not alone for the occupants and health services but for society as well.

Dr Boardman said the cost of refurbishing a cold home could be recovered in seven years in reduced health costs alone and the focus should be on where energy poverty is concentrated before moving on to less severe areas.


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