Sinn Féin Mayo TD Rose Conway-Walsh has raised concerns for elderly people and those on lower incomes who have not had planned energy upgrades made to their homes this year due to the Covid-19 crisis.
They are now set to be hit with higher fuel bills due to the carbon tax increase. In Mayo, 345 homes are waiting listed for the 'Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme' making it the second worst by head of population and the fourth longest behind Dublin, Cork and Galway.
She said: "This is a vital sustainability scheme that aims to reduce energy costs for those who can least afford them, through the installation of insulation, lagging jackets or heating upgrades.
"However, due to Covid-19 restrictions this year, a backlog of over 7,300 has now developed under this scheme according to information Sinn Féin have received from the Minister.
"Given the fact that approximately 3,000 homes are completed each year, this amounts to a backlog of almost two and a half years work.
"In the absence of these planned works, many vulnerable people won’t have energy upgrades made to their homes anytime soon and are now facing a cold winter with higher energy bills. This will be compounded by the decision to increase the carbon tax by 29 per cent, which will push up fuel prices.
"Combined with the increase in the electricity PSO and price hikes from energy providers, people will be facing a three-pronged attack in energy costs at the time they can least afford it.
"We have called for the government to change tact when it comes to the carbon tax. Financially penalising people who have no alternatives is only going to make their situation worse.
"We’ve called for an energy price freeze and highlighted the impact the PSO increase is going to have on workers and families.
"The government this week announced millions more for retrofitting in the budget but, while welcome and much-needed, this funding is of no use if the work isn’t being done on the ground.
"This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, given the time of year and the impact the cold weather will have on those living in poorly insulated homes this winter."