500,000 home energy upgrades under residential retrofit plan

One-stop shops for grants and contractors under Government plan

Homeowners are expected to shoulder a substantial proportion of the burden of meeting the State’s ambitions to cut CO2 emissions in half over the next nine years.

Under the plan unveiled on Wednesday, fossil-fuel heating will no longer be installed in new homes by 2030, while less environmentally-damaging heat pumps will be installed in 600,000 homes.

In all, 400,000 of these will be fitted to existing housing in a major programme by 2030, while 500,000 homes will retrofitted to bring them up to B2 building energy rating (BER) during that time.

The eventual payoff for householders will be warmer homes and cheaper bills, but the plan acknowledges getting to that point will be a challenge both for the householder and the industry.

“This will require hundreds of thousands of homeowners to make the decision to invest in decarbonising and making their properties more efficient,” the plan states.

“It will necessitate a larger retrofit sector with the capacity to deliver much higher numbers of retrofits to the required standard as well as approaches to financing that can fund the necessary work.”

The mechanism for achieving this is the National Residential Retrofit Plan. Under existing schemes 18,400 home retrofits were completed in 2020. However, just 4,000 were to a B2 standard and only 1,600 homeowners installed heat pumps.

The low or patchy levels of upgrading are attributed to a lack of awareness of retrofitting and its benefits, a lack of familiarity with some technologies such as heat pumps, homeowners being “overwhelmed” by the complexity and number of decisions involved, the difficulty of grant applications and, crucially, concerns over affordability and the high upfront cost of works.

The new retrofit plan promises to solve these problems. This will begin with a national awareness and “demand generation” campaign before the end of this year along with the availability of BER advisory reports for homeowners on how to upgrade their homes to a B2 rating.

One-stop shops

Following this will be the establishment of registered one-stop shops which will offer homeowners all the services required for a home energy upgrade. The range of services will include a home energy assessment; a grant-application service which will allow grants to be deducted up front from the cost of works; project management, including assigning a contractor to carry out the works; and follow-up BER assessments.

Costs have been identified as a key barrier to retrofitting with the cost of achieving a BER B2 and installing a heat pump ranging from €14,000 to €66,000.

An initial €5 billion in additional carbon-tax revenue has been allocated to support residential retrofitting to 2030, with the potential to increase this figure in the second half of the decade, according to the report.

The Government is also seeking to develop a retrofit loan guarantee scheme and associated low-cost residential retrofit loans for costs not covered by grants. The potential for new tax incentives for retrofit will be explored, according to the report.

The report recognises the need for a significantly increased workforce to undertake the retrofitting programme and commits to “deliver the necessary increase in upskilling, reskilling and apprenticeship supports” in addition to initiatives to ensure the required number of BER assessors and a registration system for the providers of the one-stop-shop service.

The plan also promises to “enhance the capacity” of local authorities to deliver their retrofit programme for social housing.