Credit unions to get up to €10m funding for retrofit scheme

SEAI said access to finance ‘can be a barrier’ to residential retrofitting as it approved fund

One major benefit to an energy retrofit is that a higher BER  generally translates to a higher resale value of the property. Photograph: Getty Images

One major benefit to an energy retrofit is that a higher BER generally translates to a higher resale value of the property. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Credit unions are to get additional funding of up to €10 million for a scheme to finance the retrofitting of homes.

The Credit Union Development Association (Cuda) gets funding from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) for ProEnergy Homes, which is Ireland’s first end-to-end home retrofit scheme.

Cuda on Monday announced an expansion of the scheme. It is currently available through many of the 50 credit unions that work with Cuda, but any credit union can sign up to it through the group.

Cuda said half of the 2021 SEAI €1.5 million in grant aid is already allocated. It is anticipated that additional funding will be sought in the second quarter of this year. The interest rate is 6.9 per cent (APR 7.1 per cent), though if a member has savings of a similar value with their credit union, they may qualify for a lower rate.

The scheme was piloted by Cuda in early 2019 across 20 credit unions. Homeowners fill out an application form with their credit union, after which Retrofit Energy Ireland (REIL) conducts an assessment on their property and presents them with a report.

Cuda chief executive Kevin Johnson said: “REIL is appointed to oversee all surveys and works, grant funding of up to 35 per cent is available from SEAI for all qualifying works, and low-rate financing is made available for the balance of costs through the credit union.

“To date, public demand for the scheme through participating credit unions has been strong, demonstrating people’s appetite for a one-stop-shop model.

“Based on the current level of interest from credit union members and the number of credit unions signing up to the scheme, we’ll need to look for additional funding shortly and can envisaging the annual level of grant funding running at €6-€10 million.”

SEAI spokeswoman Josephine Maguire said the group recognises that access to finance “can be a barrier” to retrofitting of homes.

Cuda said the scheme has been tweaked in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Home surveys and works will resume as soon as it is safe to do so, but in the interim, a team of project managers and surveyors are available for telephone consultations.

Average spend

The average amount spent is about €14,000 made up of grant, savings and borrowings. The most popular measures undertaken in 2020 were external wall insulation and new glazing. Multizone boiler controls also proved popular.

The scheme covers retrofits to a range of energy systems, including attic insulation, external wall insulation, the installation of solar panels, and upgrades to windows, among others.

Mr Johnson said SEAI grants will fund up to 35 per cent of the cost of a retrofit, with the average cost of bringing a house up to the recommended B2 level rating being €30,000-€40,000.

“So, just accounting for 35 per cent of that cost through grant aid will leave a bill of roughly €26,000 for works,” he said. “We recommend homeowners to use some saving to help lower the cost of any additional borrowing to cover the remaining bill, or indeed to cover the full cost of works, depending on how much they have saved.

“For example, take a cost of €40,000 to get a home to a B2 rating – the 35 per cent grant will cover €14,000, which leaves €26,000 for the homeowner to cover. If they have €10,000 saved, this reduces the amount to be financed by a ProEnergy loan to €16,000.”