Assembly Written Question1286/17-22
Question: To ask the Minister for Communities whether she will expand support for home insulation and energy efficiency schemes, to address fuel poverty and the climate crisis.
Answer: The Affordable Warmth Scheme is the Executive’s main fuel poverty scheme. It provides a range of energy efficiency improvement measures which include cavity and loft insulation as well as new and replacement heating systems and windows where appropriate. I have recently approved changes to the eligibility criteria for the Scheme. Increasing the income threshold from £20,000 to £23,000 and removing disability benefits from the calculation of income will increase the number of households eligible for support. Work is ongoing to amend the relevant Scheme Regulations to enable these changes to be implemented. This Scheme is delivered in partnership between the Department, all eleven local Councils and the Housing Executive. It has a targeted approach, aimed at private sector households most at risk of fuel poverty. The Boiler Replacement Scheme also provides a grant of up to £1,000 to eligible households towards the cost of replacing old and inefficient boilers over 15 years old. The Housing Executive is aware of the significant level of funding that will be required to bring its stock up to a standard at which it can make a marked contribution to addressing climate change. The Housing Executive recently commissioned research into the cost of retro-fitting housing to improve energy efficiency standards here(regardless of tenure). The research findings will help to inform policy going forward, but the common challenge for all providers remains the availability of funding to facilitate works to deliver improved energy efficiency standards. A new Fuel Poverty Strategy, which is in the early stages of development, will align with the new Energy Strategy and associated Energy Efficiency Strategy and Clean Air Strategies.