Deep retrofit work to be funded from energy body’s 2020 budget

Bruton reversal of decision to end scheme may need €8m for work on 302 households

Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton: said it was unfair on  householders who had applied on time for retrofits to have to wait indefinitely for a decision.  Photograph:  Tom Honan

Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton: said it was unfair on householders who had applied on time for retrofits to have to wait indefinitely for a decision. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The estimated €8 million to fund the additional 302 households that may be eligible to have deep retrofit work carried out on their homes will come out of next year’s capital budget for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), it has been confirmed.

The scheme, a pilot project, ended with immediate effect earlier in August when the SEAI said it did not have the funds to pay grants to all the home owners who had applied.

There was a substantial surge of applicants in the run-up to the July 19th deadline. The funding available to the SEAI meant it could only complete 12 projects in 2019, with the other 54 schemes (involving a total of 302 homes) being informed no funds would be available.

Last week, Minister for Communications and Climate Action Richard Bruton announced he was reversing the decision and all 302 homes could now apply for grants.

Capital allowance

However, the completion dates and funding have been pushed back to 2020, with the money coming out of next year’s capital allowance.

The total allotted to the deep retrofit scheme this year is €10 million. The initial budget was for €7 million. However an additional €1.5 million was reallocated from another SEAI project when it became clear the interest in the scheme had escalated rapidly. The department also allotted an additional €1.5 million for the scheme in July.

But even with the additional funding, it became apparent to the SEAI and the department as early as June that it would not cover all the applicants. The SEAI made a submission to the department outlining a number of options including extending the scheme until next year.

However, with the funding situation remaining unclear, the SEAI decided on August 13th to suspend the scheme with immediate effect. In outlining his reasons for reversing the decision this week, Mr Bruton said it was unfair on those householders who had applied on time to have to wait indefinitely for a decision.

Construction work

While it was a pilot scheme, and households were told not to begin work until the grant was approved, most had begun preliminary construction work including demolition. Retrofitting an old house to bring it up to A3 energy standard can cost more than €100,000, although the average cost is closer to €50,000.

The scheme gave householders a grant worth slightly more than half the total cost of refurbishment.

A spokeswoman for the department said €1.2 million has been paid in grants so far in 2019. An additional €9 million will be paid in grants to projects already given grant approval.

“Following the Minister’s announcement this week, an additional 54 applications involving over 300 homes will now be assessed and honoured (where successful) under the 2019 application guidelines, as opposed to after an evaluation of the scheme. 

“Given the nature of the projects and the extent of the work to be completed, most of the grant payments will be made in 2020.”