Marie O’Halloran writes in the Irish Times about grant funding to improve the energy performance of homes has been cut in the past three years from €57.6 million to €9.9 million in three years. Is Ireland still on track to meet its 2020 EU energy savings targets?
Government policy home energy efficiency ‘short-sighted’
Less than €10 million was provided in grants in 2014 to improve energy efficiency in homes compared to almost €58 million three years earlier, it has emerged.
New figures released in a parliamentary reply to Fianna Fáil energy spokesman Michael Moynihan showed €9.9 million was paid last year in grants under the Better Homes Scheme, administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
However in 2011 grant funding reached a peak of €57.6 million, before falling to €28.95 million the following year and dropping to €13.16 million in 2013.
Mr Moynihan described the Government’s approach to encouraging people to improve energy efficiency in their homes as “entirely short-sighted and counterproductive”.
In the first three years of the scheme 110,000 people had taken part. He said there had been a collapse in the number of households benefiting from the grant scheme following two cuts to grants paid for improvements including wall insulation and boiler upgrades.
He said encouraging home insulation was an effective way to reduce energy bills and Ireland’s dependence on imported fossil fuels. He added that it also supported employment.
“Ireland was developing a strong domestic industry with export potential when the Government effectively pulled the rug from under the sector by slashing the available grants.”
Mr Moynihan said the recent review of the scheme was an admission that the cuts made to grants were very short-sighted.
He said Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Alex White “needs to actively market the scheme and ensure that adequate funding is in place to maximise its potential”.
In his reply Mr White said the review recommended an increase in the existing grant levels “whose value had been eroded by inflation”.
It also called for a new bonus payment to encourage householders to engage in “deeper renovations” that could lead to more significant energy savings and the abolition of the minimum grant threshold.
The Minister said that in March he announced increases of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent in the grant levels awarded to householders.
He added that a bonus payment had been introduced for householders who completed three or more energy efficiency improvements.