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06 Oct 2022

Retrofit plan deeply unfair as it helps those with the most money says Laois TD

The benefits of availing of grant to install solar panels at home

Funding for the solar panels would go up to €24.5m under the Sinn Féin plan

The Government is pushing an 'deeply' unfair plan that is helping well off households more than people who need a lot of help to make their homes warmer and greener.

That's according to Laois Offaly Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley who instead says his party's proposal on retrofitting would ensure fair access, reduce energy bills, deliver warm homes and tackle climate change.

The TD says Sinn Féin’s Alternative Budget will include a significant increase in the retrofitting budget and will redirect resources for retrofitting to those living in energy poverty and in greatest need of energy efficiency upgrades.

Dep Stanley hit out at what Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens are doing.

“The Government’s current home retrofit plan is deeply inequitable; it prioritises those with the greatest means over those in greatest need.

"It excludes a huge cohort of households; those who don’t qualify for free upgrades, but also don’t have the significant cash reserves needed to access the “One Stop Shop’’ service," he said.

He gave an example of how people who can pay are favoured.

"A wealthy household can access €25,000 of taxpayer-funded grants for a deep retrofit, irrespective of their income, while the best that most people on lower incomes can hope for is a roll of subsidised attic insulation.

"We need a fair retrofit plan that will help meet our climate targets while also delivering wider social and economic benefits for workers and families," he said.

The General Election poll-topper outlined what Sinn Féin would do instead. 

“We are proposing to significantly increase the retrofitting budget for 2023, and to target that funding at the poorest, coldest, and most carbon intensive homes.

"The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme is aimed at the most vulnerable households, but there are now 9,000 people on that waiting list and the wait time has shot up to 27 months.’’

“We would replace the Better Energy Warmer Homes with a new scheme for low- and middle-income households, which includes area-based components, and increase funding from the current €109m to €182m next year," he sad.

The TD outlined the impact.

"This scheme would ensure that free home energy upgrades would continue for those eligible social welfare recipients, but would also introduce tiered grant support ranging from 65% to 100% of funding for deep retrofits for low- and middle-income workers and households.

"We would increase the budget for local authority retrofits by 50% from €85m to €127.5m, as those in social housing are more likely to be at risk of energy poverty and therefore in greater need of home energy upgrades,’’ he said.

Dep Stanley said that his party also has a different approach to fuels like turf and coal.

“Whereas the government’s approach to solid fuel homes is defined by punitive action, from turf bans to carbon tax hikes, Sinn Féin will help put the alternatives in place first.

"We propose a new €50m retrofitting scheme for homes that rely on solid fuels for heating, which will particularly benefit households in rural areas, improve health and air quality, while also reducing energy poverty. 

"We would establish a Local Energy Action Fund that would provide €8m for Sustainable Energy Communities to fund local community-led group retrofits,’’ he said.

The TD also spoke about solar power.

“Finally, we will be proposing a 75% increase in funding for the solar PV budget, bringing that budget up to €24.5m for 2023.

"We recognise that due to the high initial upfront cost of installing solar panels, even with the current grant, this option remains unaffordable for many people.

"Therefore, we will restructure the funding of solar PVs by providing tiered supports, ranging from 100% to 10% of the cost depending on household income. This would help thousands more households install solar PV next year, bringing down their bills and emissions," he said.

Dep Stanley said Sinn Féin is bringing forward a host of costed, climate action initiatives, that would both cut our carbon emissions and reduce energy poverty and inequality in our society.

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