Friends of the Earth report reveals significant barriers to retrofitting at household, community and national level

Current policy measures not sufficient to meet the needs of certain groups, while worsening energy price crisis heightens risk of energy poverty due to dependence on fossil fuel heating.

Friends of the Earth today published a research report on barriers to retrofitting in Ireland [1]. The report was informed by interviews with experts in energy poverty and energy efficiency. It provides an overview of the challenges faced by Irish households, policymakers, and government bodies in achieving Ireland’s retrofit and heat pump targets and notes a range of solutions identified by experts.

Friends of the Earth report reveals significant barriers to retrofitting at household, community and national levelClare O’Connor, Energy Policy Officer at Friends of the Earth and author of the report, said:

“Ireland’s housing stock remains some of Europe’s most inefficient[2], leaving many of us with high energy bills and vulnerable to shocks like the current energy crisis. Despite some positive announcements from the Government in their new retrofit scheme[3], this report shows that there are still major barriers to achieving their target of retrofitting half a million homes by 2030[4].

Experts highlighted a range of barriers that often limit access to retrofitting for particular groups. Current SEAI grants are not sufficiently accessible for tenants, low-income households, the Traveller community, or those living in older homes. It is not surprising that high upfront costs act as a barrier, however it is notable that a number of experts pointed to lack of trust in the process of retrofitting, and low awareness of the benefits. Relevant Departments, the SEAI and local authorities must urgently respond to these barriers in order to get Irish households off polluting, expensive fossil fuel heating, particularly oil and gas. In doing so, Irish households could begin to see the benefits of climate action through warmer homes, lower energy bills, and new jobs.”

Clare O’Connor, Energy Policy Officer at Friends of the Earth also highlighted potential solutions:

Although barriers are significant, experts put forward a range of solutions. A focus on retrofitting of social and local authority housing and the introduction of local community energy advisors must be prioritised this year. The SEAI Warmer Home scheme also must be expanded particularly in response to the energy price crisis[5].There isa need for tailored supports and protections for retrofitting of the private rental sector. The Government must also live up to long-standing commitments and producean updated Energy Poverty Strategy to ensure the energy transition doesnot leave our most vulnerable households out in the cold[6].

The report’s key findings include:

  • Policy design & finance options are not sufficiently tailored to the needs of certain groups including low-income households, tenants, rural dwellers, and the Traveller community.
  • Key barriers for households include high upfront costs, a lack of trust in the process of retrofitting, and low awareness of the benefits.
  • A low standard of rental housing, a lack of tailored finance options for landlords to retrofit, and no clarity on tenant protection from “renovictions” leaves the private rental sector excluded from retrofitting benefits.
  • The Government has continued to fail to produce an updated Energy Poverty Strategy, leaving questions around whether homes most at-risk of energy poverty are being sufficiently identified and targeted in Government retrofit schemes.
  • There is a shortage of skilled labour and materials available to undertake retrofitting works.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • The eligibility criteria for the SEAI’s Warmer Homes scheme for 100% grants should be expanded to include tenants who receive Housing Assistance Payment (HAP).
  • Local Community Energy Advisors should be introduced by the SEAI across all counties/local authorities to increase awareness amongst hard-to-reach energy users.
  • The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications should immediately produce a new energy poverty strategy.
  • Social housing retrofit targets must be increased greatly from the current 36,500, or just 7% of total retrofits to be completed by 2030.
  • Tailored measures for retrofitting the Private Rental Sector must be introduced such as raising awareness of the introduction of minimum BERs from 2025, and introducing tailored finance options to address the split incentive issue.
  • The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications and the SEAI should expedite the rollout of area-based approaches to retrofitting.
  • Support for bottom-up, local community initiatives to offer peer-support and advice for those unsure of the retrofitting process and for communities interested in progressing retrofits jointly.
  • Guidance should be produced for retrofitting traditional buildings and older dwellings.

Notes:

  1. The Friends of the Earth research report is available here: https://www.foe.ie/assets/files/pdf/blockages_to_retrofitting_and_heat-pump_installation_in_ireland.pdf
  2. 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.
  3. In February 2022, the Government announced a new National Retrofit Scheme, administered by the SEAI.
  4. 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.
  5. In terms of international comparisons, energy prices are higher in Ireland compared to other countries. Residential electricity prices are the third most expensive out of 14 EU countries and the UK, residential gas prices around the middle, and diesel prices the joint fourth most expensive.
  6. 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 (oil, gas and solid fuels).

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

You must be logged in to post a comment.