A pilot project to deliver widespread retrofitting of homes for energy efficiency across an entire neighbourhood is being planned for a housing estate in north Dublin.
The aim of the project is to retrofit local authority homes but also – through economies of scale – reduce upgrade costs for privately owned properties in the same estate, by allowing those residents access to the same rates being paid by the council for work on their neighbours’ homes.
It is hoped the work will be carried out this year and, if successful, could have the potential to offer a model for ramping up retrofitting across similar housing estates elsewhere.
Fingal County Council’s director of housing, Robert Burns, said planning was in the “early stages” but the area-based approach to retrofitting could be “a sweet spot where everybody wins”.
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Cost is seen as a barrier to private homeowners seeking deep retrofits for their properties.
Retrofitting is a key part of the Coalition’s Climate Action Plan which sets out a target of upgrading 500,000 homes by 2030.
The National Retrofitting Scheme was launched last year including One Stop Shops to carry out the work that can be accessed through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The Government announced grants for up to 50 per cent of the cost of a typical deep retrofit to B2 Ber (Building Energy Rating) standard.
The average cost of such work on a three-bedroom home was put at €60,000-€70,000 in 2022.
The Coalition is planning for a low-cost loan guarantee scheme to help homeowners fund energy upgrades but it has not yet been announced when it will be in operation.
The project in north Dublin was revealed at the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) where the SEAI was quizzed by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy on what measures were being taken to scale up retrofitting across multiple homes in a community. She suggested there were cost efficiencies by doing this.
Ciaran Byrne, SEAI’s director of national retrofit, said his organisation had signed a memorandum to conduct a pilot project in a north Dublin estate where the ownership was about 50:50 local authority and private homes. He said Fingal County Council would be retrofitting the properties it owned and “we’re rolling behind to see if we can encourage private homeowners in that same estate to avail of the same contract rates”.
Mr Byrne said it could start to build aggregation “where a contractor goes into an estate and effectively does all the homes”.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Fingal’s housing director, Mr Burns, said: “If we’re looking at doing energy retrofits at pace and scale in Ireland, it’s a good idea to adopt an area-based approach that looks to retrofit as many homes as possible at the same time.”
Fingal County Council said it was “exploring a number of potential areas and estates where the pilot could be run, but we haven’t settled on particular locations as yet”.
It plans to contact homeowners in potential locations in the coming weeks to determine interest levels and to allow surveys to be undertaken to develop a list of appropriate works and establish the associated costs.
After this work is reviewed by the council and SEAI, it is hoped the pilot retrofitting project will be carried out this year.
At Thursday’s PAC meeting, committee chairman Brian Stanley, a Sinn Féin TD, asked if the target of 500,000 homes being retrofitted by 2030 was realistic.
SEAI chief executive William Walsh said: “It’s our job to deliver it” adding that the number of retrofits doubled in a year and the agency planned for this to happen again this year.
The PAC was told there was a target of delivering 120,000 upgrades to B2 standard by 2025 and about 18,500 had been delivered so far.
Mr Byrne said: “They are extremely stretched and ambitious targets, no question about that” but the SEAI is seeking to grow the retrofitting industry to “bring us in line”.