Retrofitting homes will assist economic recovery across the country, says Minister

Minister says funding would end a stop-start grants approval process for householders

A key mechanism being put in place by a new renovation task force was to enable householders make the right retrofitting choices and to facilitate group applications for approval, which would reduce costs and increase speed of delivery, Eamon Ryan said. Photograph: Alan Betson

A key mechanism being put in place by a new renovation task force was to enable householders make the right retrofitting choices and to facilitate group applications for approval, which would reduce costs and increase speed of delivery, Eamon Ryan said. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Retrofitting 500,000 Irish homes over the next decade will play a major role in Ireland’s economic recovery from the impact of Covid-19, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan has predicted.

“It is a highly labour-intensive sector and can create high-quality, sustainable jobs in local communities throughout the country,” he told a conference hosted by Irish Green Building Council (IGBC).

This would be kick-started by €222 million in capital funding provided in the budget for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland residential and community retrofit programmes; an 82 per cent increase on the 2020 allocation, Mr Ryan said. It would also end a stop-start grants approval process for householders, the Minister added.

Of this allocation, €109 million is provided to support lower-income households to retrofit their homes and to participate in the transition to a decarbonised Ireland – a further €65 million has been allocated for social housing retrofit in the Department of Housing and Local Government”.

A key mechanism being put in place by a new renovation task force was to enable householders make the right retrofitting choices and to facilitate group applications for approval, which would reduce costs and increase speed of delivery, Mr Ryan added.

IGBC chief executive Pat Barry welcomed the scaling up of renovation. “The IGBC has long called for certainty on energy renovation. The retrofitting industry is just finding its feet. To scale up deep energy renovation, businesses need to train staff, build new business models and guarantee long term work for their reskilled employees. The move to a multiannual budget should assist this,” he said.

The IGBC has welcomed publication of the Climate Action Bill and the EU Renovation Wave initiative to improve the energy performance of buildings announced this week as “key steps in the right direction as they show a clear direction of travel”.

Mr Barry added: “Now that we have the direction, we must focus on actions. Better conditions for staged renovation are needed. This could be done through the introduction of retrofitting roadmaps, which would complement existing building energy rating schemes (BERs). Addressing labour and skills shortages is also critical. We do not currently have the capacity to retrofit 50,000 homes annually. Re-training suitable workers from hard hit sectors should hence be supported”.

Campaign director at Renovate Europe Adrian Joyce underlined the importance of Ireland matching EU funding on recovery projects and climate action, given 37 per cent of the recently announced EU recovery and resilience facility must be targeted to climate-related expenditure.

“Energy renovation is a labour-intensive industry. Retrofitting our buildings is not only key to reach climate neutrality, it can also create employment and boost SMEs. That’s why, the Renovate Europe campaign strongly encourages Ireland to use it to invest in energy renovation,” he added.

As many as 1.5 million Irish homes are considered “energy inefficient” and require upgrade work between now and 2050. Retrofitting homes and businesses was not only critical to reach national climate targets, it could improve health and wellbeing by reducing air pollution; reduce fuel poverty and create sustainable construction jobs, the conference heard.