18 May 2022

Retrofit scheme is a double edged sword for Tipperary householders

So says Tipperary Independent TD, Michael Lowry

Retrofitting talk for homes and businesses in Limerick

Retrofitting homes is a key strand in the government's strategy to meet climate policy targets

‘The vast majority of people do not underestimate the urgency and the necessity to address Climate Change. Protecting the earth for future generations is not just something we are choosing to do, it is something we are obligated to do as responsible citizens. The potential for this Scheme is enormous in many ways. However, it is a double edged sword in crucial areas. We must be realistic in this regard,"  Deputy Michael Lowry said during a debate on the National Retrofitting Scheme in Dail  Eireann.

The Tipperary Independent TD added: ‘The concept of the National Retrofitting Scheme is a smart and ambitious one. The positive impact on reducing emissions, if between 50,000 and 70,000 homes avail of the Retrofitting Scheme between now and 2030, would be something Ireland could be justifiably proud of on the world’s climate change stage.

‘The Scheme has the vision to bring about great benefits on one side, but its capacity to deliver is stymied by major obstacles that will prove difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.

Deputy Michael Lowry

‘One significant obstacle is that grabbing this much needed cost saving opportunity may not be a possibility for many families. The initial outlay would push their household budget to its limit. For many in the country that limit is already reached. It is a time of financial struggle. A time of trepidation and fear about family budgets.

‘The message I am getting from Tipperary households is that very few have surplus money. While they need to retrofit their home, and they want to retrofit their home, the chances of it actually happening are slim.

‘It is highly unlikely that they will be able to find 50% of the cost of carrying out this work, even though they are acutely aware of the long term benefits. Lending institutions will not entertain them and Low Interest loans at 3.5% from Government still involve a regular repayment. A commitment many cannot undertake. The promise of future energy savings will not feed a family in the intervening weeks and months.

‘A major issue of concern is the serious shortage of skilled workers in Tipperary and across Ireland at this time. Hundreds upon hundreds of skilled workers of all ages left Ireland during the recession. Some have returned, but a large majority have settled in other countries and may never come back.

‘A Retrofitting Scheme that has a duration of 8 years will not entice these workers to uproot again to come back home. We have lost those invaluable skills as other countries scrambled to employ our carpenters, electricians, scaffolders and plumbers. There is already huge demand in Ireland for good tradesmen.

‘There is also an unprecedented need to provide housing at this time. This task requires many of the same skill sets as retrofitting projects.

‘How will the shortage of skilled workers be met to carry out all this work? This is a glaring obstacle. The skilled workers are simply not there and no amount of ambitious plans for building or retrofitting can change that fact.
‘During the boom times in Ireland it was possible to build 90,000 houses in one year. Irish and overseas tradesmen and workers made that possible.

‘If we were to try to attract tradesmen and workers from outside Ireland now how would we accommodate them when people already living here cannot find or afford accommodation? What realistic incentives could we offer them? Without plausible incentives outside of work, why would they come?

‘The Scheme, if sufficient tradesmen are found to work on it, would be a Godsend to apprentices across the country. It is proving increasingly impossible for apprentices to get placements with tradesmen to undertake the on-the-job training that forms part of their qualification. This is discouraging take-up of trade apprentice courses. This Scheme could encourage more to enrol for apprenticeships and be a win/win situation for both the present and for the future of trades in Ireland.

‘Overall, the concept of the Retrofitting Scheme is good. But important obstacles need to be thought through and overcome before it is fully fit for purpose.

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