'National retrofit wave' would create thousands of jobs and billions in disposable income

'National retrofit wave' would create thousands of jobs and billions in disposable income

A significant gain from retrofitting would be the rapid reduction in fuel poverty, while lower energy bills for all households could lead to up to just under €4.5bn of additional disposable income. within the Irish economy. File picture: Getty Images

Targets for mass retrofitting of Irish homes must be far more ambitious for policymakers, with the potential for 32,000 new jobs, €600m in economic savings every year, and billions in extra money for citizens to spend.

That is according to a new analysis by the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) based at Tyndall National Institute in Cork, which said as well as the "massive" energy savings that would assist in the climate crisis, there would be €4.5bn of additional disposable income for citizens due to a fall in utility bills.

The paper, authored by Rosemarie MacSweeney with additional contributions from Dr Piyush Verma, Prof Tony Day, and Prof Brian Norton, said ambitious retrofitting was "an investment in the environmental, societal, and economic infrastructures of Ireland", impacting ecology water and soils, healthcare and social welfare, as well as energy generation and supply.

A 'national retrofit renovation wave" could create 32,000 jobs, reduce fuel poverty, and save on healthcare. File picture: Getty Images
A 'national retrofit renovation wave" could create 32,000 jobs, reduce fuel poverty, and save on healthcare. File picture: Getty Images

"This report recommends exceeding current retrofitting ambitions in terms of speed and scale, due to both the number of benefits available and the magnitude of potential financial returns, to meet Ireland's targets for a shared, decarbonised, climate-neutral future for 2030 (Climate Action Plan), 2040 (Project Ireland), 2050 (European Green Deal) and beyond," it said.

A "national retrofit renovation wave" could create 32,000 jobs, reduce fuel poverty, and save on healthcare, it said.

One direct benefit from a countrywide cost-optimal retrofitting programme to a B2 rating would be the reduction in energy use (53 terawatts per hour) and associated carbon emissions (12.7m tonnes) from reduced energy consumption, it claimed.

Rapid reduction in fuel poverty

A significant gain would be the rapid reduction in fuel poverty, while lower energy bills for all households could lead to up to just under €4.5bn of additional disposable income within the Irish economy. 

There is also a benefit to the exchequer in annual savings on social welfare spending such as household fuel-allowances, it said.

Fuel poverty is described as spending at least 10% of a household income on keeping a home warm.

The paper said the increased health and wellbeing benefits could save up to €600m annually to the Irish economy, "through gains in productivity and output, reduced sick leave and absenteeism, reduced burden on the healthcare and social welfare systems".

Annual savings on the reduction of hospital admissions alone, could be more than €20m for the HSE, and over €2m to patients, the authors calculated.

Ireland currently has the world’s highest rate of cystic fibrosis, fourth-highest rate of asthma, and the highest rate of excess winter mortality in Europe, all of which can either be caused by, or exacerbated by poor housing conditions. 

"Previous analysis of cold-related deaths in Dublin, showed that each one degree Celsius drop in temperature was associated with a 2.6% increase in total mortality over the subsequent 40 days," it said.

Large-scale cost-optimal retrofitting to a B2 rating could also increase revenue from Vat on the retrofit works by up to €4.72bn over the period to completing the renovation of all homes C-rated or lower in 2030.

Property tax would increase by up to €38.56m annually due to increased property values, with stamp duty by up to €11m annually due to increased values of properties sold each year, the analysis said.

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