Upgrading home insulation is a central part of the Government's Climate Action Plan.

Irish homes are responsible for one quarter of overall energy use and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan is to reduce those emissions from six million tonnes in 2017 to less than four million tonnes by 2030 and to do so by retrofitting 500,000 homes.

But how is work towards those targets progressing?

Declan Meally, head of the Department for Transport and Communities at the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), sees retrofitting as a huge transformational opportunity and he is confident the target will be met.

He says that, last year, the work was carried out on 4,000 homes, it will be 13,000 this year, and 30,000 next year, ramping up to 50,000 after that.

Mr Meally says more people have been working from home and are seeing the possibilities of what better insulation can do for their comfort and warmth.

He also points to communities coming together to apply for group projects.

Some 500 communities have done this and more than €300m has been invested through the SEAI communities programme.

One example is at Saint James Avenue in the Liberties in Dublin.

At a Co-operative Housing Ireland complex contractors are replacing the gas central heating boilers in all 46 apartments with heat pumps. Doors, windows and attic insulation will also be upgraded.

Ciaran Carmody of Kingdom Installation is project manager of the works and says working on this type of cluster brings down costs and allows things to be done faster. The residents do not have to move out and work is being carried out in a way that keeps people Covid-19 safe.

Eoin Carroll, Policy and Communications Director with Co-operative Housing Ireland, says it is paying 40% of the cost. An SEAI grant covers half the bill, and the rest was funded by SSE Airtricity.

He says it is a good investment as it future-proofs maintenance costs as a survey of members last December showed heating and fuel poverty is a real issue.

Mr Carroll says the SEAI programme is attractive as it is a one-stop shop. Co-operative Housing Ireland has to deal only with Kingdom Installation which project manages everything.

Dr Paul Deane is a research fellow at MaREI, a Science Foundation Ireland centre for energy, climate and marine research at University College Cork.

He agrees that group retrofitting schemes make a lot of sense but he does have concerns about whether the 500,000 target will be met. He says something on this scale has never been tried anywhere before and that finance remains a major obstacle for individual homeowners.

Dr Deane argues that new models will be needed and the cost could be spread over decades rather than years. The bill for retrofitting could spread out over the lifetime of the home with repayments continuing even after the current owners have left.

Ciaran Carmody, who is also managing group schemes in Kilkenny, Wexford and Donegal, says inclusivity is the key. He works with housing associations and has seen estates where there are also council tenants and private home owners who were signed up for a retrofitting scheme.

One thing on which all of the contributors agree is that climate action is not the only benefit of retrofitting as it also improves quality of life and health of people in their homes.