Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport Eamon Ryan has said that the phenomenon of “keeping up with the Joneses” might encourage more householders to commit to expensive retrofits of their houses to improve their energy ratings.
Mr Ryan said that a combination of grants, low-interest loans and seeing for themselves the benefits of low-energy homes would lead to a greater uptake of the renovation work which can cost between €14,000 and €66,000 per home.
The Programme for Government has committed to retrofit 500,000 and Mr Ryan is expected to announce a major financing plan in 2022, including grants and long-term, low-interest loans.
During an interview on RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme, it was put to him that even with grants and low-cost loans many householders would find the costs very expensive.
Mr Ryan said that once the work commenced, a lot of people would start to see what it is like for other neighbours to live in a house that had a B rating or better.
“There will actually be a huge, you might call it ‘Keeping Up with the Joneses’ [effect],” he said.
He said Government would also respond to high cost barriers by providing what he described as “huge grant support”.
“That is why we’re dedicating some 55 per cent of the money we raise from carbon tax to go back to householders to be able to afford in terms of grants, as I said, as well as low customer loans.
Mr Ryan said later this year a comprehensive scheme will be put in place that would offer loans at a rate as low as 3.5 per cent. “The advantage to that is that the savings you make by improving the home in terms of lower energy bills can help cover the cost of the loan, so it becomes self-financing.”
He accepted it would take some time to ramp up the scheme. He said there were also grants available, many now targeted on those with lower income who might otherwise be subject to fuel poverty.
The Minister rejected the claim of Government colleague, Barry Cowan (Fianna Fáil) that high electricity prices could be attributed to local factors, principally ESB’s dominant place in the market and its effect on wholesale prices.
“I think the high prices we are seeing is caused by international factors,” said Mr Ryan. “It’s because of the very high price of gas and oil, but particularly gas, in the international markets.
He said there were a “whole variety of reasons” why Irish consumers pay more than their European counterparts.
“One of the reasons is we have a very dispersed population with a very large percentage of one-off houses in the country, which is quite expensive to get to.
“That’s probably one of the main reasons why our prices differ from other international markets,” he said.