National Retrofitting Scheme is a ‘Double Edged Sword’

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’ said Deputy Michael Lowry during a debate on the National
Retrofitting Scheme in the Dail on Thursday.

‘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.
‘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.