Retrofitting homes: Sign-off on Home Energy Upgrade expected

Ramping up of the provision of training in retrofitting skills part of Government plan

A directly elected mayor for Dublin is to be examined by a Citizens’ Assembly later this spring, under plans going to Government on Tuesday.

The Cabinet is also expected to sign off on a new Home Energy Upgrade Scheme to help people retrofit their homes for energy efficiency as part of Ireland’s climate action efforts.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is, on Tuesday morning, expected to brief colleagues on plans for two Citizens' Assemblies, set to start in April. The Dublin Citizens' Assembly will consider whether a directly elected mayor for the city should be considered, as well as issues relating to the local government structure. Previous plans for a directly elected mayor fell apart when Fingal County Council rejected the plans, which needed the support of all four Dublin local authorities.

A second assembly will examine the issue of biodiversity. Both assemblies will be asked to report back within nine months, it is understood.

Separately, a ramping up of the provision of training in retrofitting skills is to form part of the Government’s ambition for 500,000 homes to be upgraded for energy efficiency. The programme for government has set targets of retrofitting 500,000 homes for energy efficiency by 2030 as part of the Climate Action Plan.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan is expected to announce details of grants of more than €25,000 to help householders pay for deep retrofits. The scheme for private homes will cover close to half the cost of a deep retrofit that would improve a dwelling's energy efficiency to a high B2 rating.

Skilled labour

With a shortage of construction workers, questions have been raised over where the skilled labour for retrofitting will be found.

The Government plans to increase the number of training places in Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) skills adding an additional 2,650 places, to bring the total number to 4,550 by the end of 2022.

Courses in NZEB skills are offered in Waterford Wexford ETB, Laois Offaly ETB and Mount Lucas National Construction Training Centre, and three other locations are planned this year.

Apprenticeships are also expected to play a part in bringing more workers on stream.

The Government also believes the certainty provided to the building industry that €8 billion is to be spent by the State on retrofitting up to 2030 will give companies the confidence to hire workers.

Ministers are also expected to approve the publication of the final report on Wednesday of the Commission on the Defence Forces, which was established by Minister for Defence Simon Coveney in late 2020 in response to concerns about the capabilities of the military and an ongoing retention crisis.

It is understood the report will recommend a substantial increase in Defence Forces capabilities and resources, as well as an overhaul of its command structure.

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin is expected to bring proposals to Cabinet to extend the Creative Ireland Programme until 2027. It is understood the next five-year programme will focus on promoting participation in youth, communities, creative industries, health and wellbeing, climate action and sustainability.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times