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Energy Schemes (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte] My Department, with the assistance of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, has put in place a project team to design the new retrofit financing scheme under the direction of a project board representing key State and industry stakeholders. The board has available to it expert advice in a range of relevant technical, legislative and financial areas to ensure the delivery of a BEF model designed to suit the Irish context. The board has been engaging widely with stakeholders as part of the development of the scheme and meets on a monthly basis.

  It is planned that the design of the scheme will be fully developed over the coming months and that a public consultation process will be undertaken in quarter three of this year. My intention is that a memorandum for Government on the detailed design of the BEF programme will be brought forward in September 2013. Assuming I get approval, it will take a number of months to introduce the necessary technical, administrative and financial pillars to underpin the scheme. While primary legislation will also be required, a scheme will be in place in 2014, in accordance with the Government’s commitment set out in the programme for Government.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

In the interim, the Government has committed over €44.5 million in Exchequer capital funding for the better energy programme in 2013, which will mainly involve grant based expenditure across better energy homes, better energy warmer homes and better energy communities. I have also recently obtained Government approval to continue the better energy homes scheme into 2014 until such time as the better energy financing programme is ready to commence.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy I thank the Minister. We all know the price of heating people's homes is increasing. The very long winter we have had has put additional pressure on people and this links into the question asked earlier about the number of disconnections. However, that may not be the initial target group for this scheme. There is much to be done before the scheme is developed and in place. Does the Minister anticipate it will be in place at the beginning of 2014 so that people can, for example, plan to do the work and have realistic expectations that it can be carried out in the early part of next year?

The Minister talked about the consultation process. What is the timeline for it being put out to public consultation? How long will it take and how will it be evaluated?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte It will be out in quarter three for a reasonable period. I do not know the figure the Deputy would put on it and I am quite agreeable to agreeing something with her on it. The scheme was promised for 2014 and it will make 2014. I must have regard to the existing scheme. There is, for example, a six-month timeline and I would have to cut off that scheme now if I was to commit to 1 January. That is the time it takes to work through the process. I do not want to do that and I would like to continue the scheme for a number of reasons because there is a cadre of installers and retrofit contractors in place, with some 4,500 people employed, which I want to maintain.

It is uncannily like what happened in Britain. After the first flush of applications, presumably from households minded to be energy efficient, the numbers have fallen off dramatically. Deputy Catherine Murphy is hinting that, if only the scheme was up and running on 1 January, there would be a flood of applicants. I hope she is right because when looking at the energy picture, one of the few tangible things we can do, given that we import our fossil fuels, as Deputy Colreavy said, is to drive the energy efficiency programme, get consumption down and get people to change their patterns of behaviour and save money in terms of import costs associated with fossil fuels. I hope the Deputy is correct but the experience here, in Britain and elsewhere in Europe is that, principally because of the recession, in the case of something that requires householders to put their hands in their pockets to put up a share of the payment for deep retrofit or less than that, they are thinking twice about it just as they are thinking twice about whether to change the car or invest in a new washing machine.

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