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Six tests for Government's new National Retrofit Scheme

7 Feb 2022

Friends of the Earth

For Immediate Release

7th February 2022

Friends of the Earth’s 6 Tests for the Government’s new National Retrofit Scheme

Ahead of tomorrow’s announcement of a new National Retrofit Scheme, Friends of the Earth has laid out 6 questions the new Scheme needs to answer in order to ensure faster and fairer climate action and progress towards a zero-carbon energy future.

Commenting, Clare O’Connor, Energy Policy Analyst at Friends of the Earth said:

“Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels by retrofitting homes is a key step in reaching our climate targets, while simultaneously responding to the international gas crisis that’s increasing our energy bills.

Accelerating the move away from fossil fuels through retrofits has huge potential to bring down energy costs, make homes warmer and healthier, and protect vulnerable households. However, the new National Retrofit Scheme must respond tothe key challenges of affordability, energy poverty, protection for tenantsand labour shortages”

In advance of tomorrow’s announcement of the details of the National Retrofit Scheme, Friends of the Earth has laid out the 5 questions it will use to assess the Scheme:

1. Does the National Retrofit Scheme prioritise vulnerable households and respond to energy poverty risks?

Energy efficiency measures must be accessible, inclusive and deliver benefits for everyone. Ongoing barriers preventing low-income households from accessing energy efficiency work, such as the large upfront costs and long waiting times, must be removed. The National Retrofit Scheme must be designed in such a way that urgently prioritises people who are most at risk of energy poverty and increases delivery of fully-subsidised retrofits for low-income households in particular.

2. Is the National Retrofit Scheme accessible for all?

The high upfront construction costs associated with improving poorly-insulated buildings has been the biggest barrier to making retrofitting accessible to all households. While households will have to meet some costs, many barriers can be partly addressed for example by:

  • Creating a single point of contact for managing retrofits which can provide support, guidance and technical assistance through the entire process.
  • Incentivising banks to provide low-interest loans in line with other EU states and providing targeted SEAI grants for other easy-win measures like insultation.
  • Grouping retrofits of houses in a particular area.

The point here is the need for clarity, accessibility and consistency - the onus should not be placed on the customer to trawl through detailed financing options, research and manage different providers, or fill out complicated application forms.

3. Does the National Retrofit Scheme prioritise and support renters?

To prevent the widening gap between renters and homeowners, the new National Retrofit Scheme must incentivise and prioritise the retrofitting of the many cold and neglected rental properties that exist in Ireland. It’s particularly important that tenants are protected while any work is carried out in their homes.

4. Does the scheme address supply chain issues and skills shortages?

If the Government is to meet their target of 500,000 homes retrofitted to a BER of B2 by 2030, they must set out a plan in the National Retrofit Scheme to overcome labour shortages by training new workers and supporting existing home heating specialists to attain the necessary retrofitting skills.

5. Does the National Retrofit Schemeline up with getting fossil fuel boilers out of homes?

At the moment while Government has committed to ramping up retrofitting, many householders are presented with gas and oil boilers as the only option. The Government has confirmed in the Climate Action Plan that it expects the installation of fossil fuel boilers in new homes to be effectively banned by 2023. Government should address this end-date as part of the Scheme and introduce further policies and measures to reduce the risk of long-term lock-in to fossil fuel heating systems.

6. Does the scheme prioritise deep retrofits?

Just 10 “deep” retrofits (i.e. at least an A3 energy rating) were achieved under SEAI schemes in 2021. While Government’s 2030 target of 500,000 homes to B2 standard will make a major impact if progressed, deep retrofits of homes to a BER A rating must be a priority area if we are to reach net zero emissions targets by 2050 at the latest.

ENDS

Notes for the Editor:

  • Deep Retrofitting of a home means carrying out multiple energy upgrades all at once to achieve a BER of at least A3.
  • Total no. of retrofits completed in 2021 under SEAI schemes.
  • Eamon Ryan will announce details on Tuesday of the new Home Energy Upgrade Scheme for private homes that will cover close to half the cost (45-51 per cent) of a deep retrofit that would improve a dwelling’s energy efficiency to a high B2 rating. The Scheme will also address support for deep-retrofitting works for the coldest households and expand grants for other measures.
  • The programme for government has set itself ambitious targets of retrofitting 500,000 homes to B2 standard by 2030 and to install 400,000 heat pumps.
  • In 2020, 17.5% of Irish households were in or at risk of energy poverty (ESRI)
  • While emissions from buildings have fallen in the past decade, Irish buildings are 70% reliant on fossil fuels. The majority of the housing stock is energy inefficient, with only 0.4 to 1.2% of the stock being renovated each year.
  • Over 80% of our homes and other buildings have an energy performance rating of C or worse and there are about 1.5 million residential homes in Ireland that need retrofitting.
  • Irish homes use 7% more energy than the EU average, emit 60% more CO2.

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