Prohibitive costs associated with retrofitting houses and lack of information about the process are major obstacles to widespread uptake of this energy saving option across Ireland, according to Tipperary Energy Agency (TEA).
Homeowners have “real desire to radically improve their homes’ energy efficiency and to adopt renewable energy”, analysis of attitudes among 761 householders who applied for its “SuperHomes” scheme shows – TEA is a social enterprise operating in the midlands for the past 20 years.
If a programme for government is agreed between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens, it will including a major deep retrofitting programme and is expected to increase ambition on the proposal to retrofit 500,000 dwellings by 2030 under the Government's climate action plan.
Overcoming the prohibitive cost of retrofits and the lack of information about the process including available technology and grants were key to enabling widespread uptake of retrofitting across Ireland, the TEA analysis concludes.
Half of all applicants under its “SuperHomes Scheme” between 2015 and 2019 said the high up-front cost of the energy retrofit – typically between €30,000 and €80,000 – was the main barrier to going ahead with improving their home.
The second biggest barrier to uptake of deep retrofits was poor information, with homeowners confused about the process of retrofitting and the best technologies.
The main reasons why people said they wanted to go ahead with a deep retrofit were comfort – “a warm, well ventilated home, and the financial savings that having an energy-efficient home would bring”.
The main barriers centred around “market failures and human behaviour, all of which can be rectified or manipulated to incentivise consumers to invest in energy efficient technologies”, the TEA finds.
In total, 156 homes completed a deep retrofit through SuperHomes from 2015-2019. It accesses funding for homeowners under different Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) programmes and currently can offer a maximum of 35 per cent. A 50 per cent deep retrofit grant was available under the SEAI’s trial deep retrofit programme from 2017 to June 2019.
"The number of people who wish to do this renovation is clearly evidenced from this report," said TEA chief executive Paul Kenny. "But their dream of a comfortable, affordable and green home can't come true due to the lack of approved financial institutions offering low-interest finance, the stop start nature of the grant aid, and confused and unclear information."
The AIB green mortgage was a good example of the kind of financing which could help increase retrofitting, he said. It offers a 2.45 per cent fixed rate for all A1 to B3 energy-rated homes. "When you consider the energy savings that come from retrofitting, and interest savings over a long time you may find that the retrofit won't cost you any money," he added.
On concerns about technicalities casting doubt on whether a deep retrofit could be done in particular houses, he said, there were “no technical issues that can’t be solved” though solutions could sometimes be cost prohibitive, he accepted.
Likewise concerns about time and lifestyle disruption, could be minimised by having a well-organised contractor, in particular for the works inside the house. Under the SuperHomes scheme the agency offers a professional engineer to work with the contractors.
TEA has secured significant EU funding recently to further the development of its domestic retrofit scheme, which is supported by the EU Horizon 2020 programme. Other project partners are the ESB; Limerick Institute of Technology, Sustainability Works and the European Heat Pump Association, who are committed to addressing challenges in scaling up domestic deep retrofit in Ireland.