As energy bills soar and the climate crisis looms, there is an urgent need to improve the energy efficiency of Ireland’s low-quality housing and reduce heating bills. Yet the government’s much vaunted retrofit scheme requires ordinary households to pay tens of thousands in up-front costs before they can avail of state subsidies. If this scheme is to be anything more than a gift to wealthy homeowners, then the state must make it accessible to the large majority of households who can’t meet these costs.

The Workers’ Party has said that households should be given the option of repaying retrofitting costs as their energy bills reduce into the future, with the work to be carried out by a public company and upfront costs to be covered by the state, through a long-term, interest free loan scheme.

Garrett Greene – Workers’ Party Cabra Glasnevin said:
“At a time when construction costs are already soaring, the state’s proposal to award subsidies totalling €8 billion over 8 years guarantees further cost inflation, exactly as happened with similar subsidies such as the First Time Buyers grant.

“The scheme’s requirement that 50% of the cost be paid by private individuals means that energy efficiency will remain a luxury for the wealthy. The government’s scheme in effect amounts to an €8 billion home improvement subsidy for the wealthiest in our society.”

Greene called for a public alternative, affordable to all:
“Retrofitting work should be delivered by a public retrofitting company. Such a mechanism could ensure that public financing is not simply absorbed by escalating private sector profits.

“Meanwhile, in order to ensure all low- and middle-income households can benefit from the scheme, financing should be provided upfront by the state, with households repaying 50% of the total cost over time, as their energy bills decrease. All households are predicted to save €83 / month in energy bills following deep retrofitting; this money can be put towards repaying 50% of retrofitting costs.”

He concluded:
“Yet again, the Green Party approach to climate change is severely limited by its continued reliance on private companies and markets which are incapable of tackling the crisis we face.

“Only a publicly-funded and publicly-delivered retrofitting scheme will ensure that energy efficiency is something affordable and accessible to all.”