Energy Authority challenged over unfair reallocation of funds - Senator Lynn Boylan
Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan has challenged the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) on its unfair reallocation of funding to assist in the financing of schemes generally availed off by wealthier applicants.
Raising the matter with SEAI CEO, William Walsh, at the Committee on Environment and Climate Action, Senator Boylan said:
“Due to the Covid pandemic, the SEAI’s programme expenditure in 2020 was reduced by nearly 16%. Consequently the SEAI had additional funds to reallocate to its various programmes.
“Instead of investing these additional funds to assist those in energy poverty with schemes such as the 'Warmer Homes' or 'Better Energy Communities' schemes, the SEAI invested the additional funds into schemes such as PV solar panels, electric vehicles and deep retrofits.
"Such schemes are availed of by wealthier applicants as a large amount of funding must be provided by the applicant. There is therefore little indication that equity was a factor in the SEAI’s decision making.
“The SEAI’s response was somewhat disappointing. Acknowledging how difficult a year 2020 was with little access to homes, the SEAI referenced convenience of works as a factor when making its decision to reallocate funds, highlighting measures like installing solar panels which take only half a day compared to an energy poverty retrofits which go on for weeks.
"We know that local authorities were carrying out works at this time, so it seems like the SEAI took the easy option, despite claiming to be aware of the need for a just transition.
“Despite this, the unfair reallocation of unused funds throughout the 2020 pandemic highlights that the SEAI is comfortable operating a two tier system.
"Those with little access to finances or access to borrowing cannot have an equal standing with those who are wealthy when initial applications are submitted for the various SEAI grant schemes.
"There is little equity and this must be put right. The SEAI now has an opportunity to reallocate any unused funding from the pandemic in 2021 into schemes which will assist those in energy poverty.
“At the end of the day, the government must ensure that the SEAI give all citizens equal and fair access to funds."