Former Minister Who Introduced Retrofit Grants Has To Abandon Plans For Own Home Because Of High Cost

The former minister who introduced the home retrofit grant scheme had to abandon plans to avail of it for his own house because of the cost.

Denis Naughten, who as minister for environment introduced the first grants in 2017, said the price quoted for retrofitting his home last year jumped 53pc in three months.

He has called on the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which runs the National Retrofitting Scheme, to examine how it is being implemented on the ground.

“I have been hugely frustrated by it,” he said.

Mr Naughten said he was out of pocket after paying €750 for the required pre-works home energy assessment which is partially repaid once works go ahead.

“It’s a worthless piece of paper and I can’t get anything back for it,” he said.

Denis Naughten

The grants scheme was overhauled last year to encourage homeowners to opt for deep retrofit projects covering windows, doors, insulation, solar panels and heat pumps.

“One-stop shops” were established to enable homeowners to have one company oversee the entire project, co-ordinate the contractors and deal with the paperwork and grants applications.

Mr Naughten, an Independent TD for Roscommon-Galway, said he was eager to take up the offer.

“I was very anxious to get this done. I was one of the first applicants to put my name down for it last year.”

He had a home energy assessment carried out in August and a works plan drawn up on the basis of it.

“It took account of work already done on the house. I’d already had insulation work carried out,” he said.

“A price was agreed and I even paid a deposit but when the contractor came in with the final schedule and costing in November, it was gone way up.

“The price was up 33pc but the cost to me was up 53pc because the grant doesn’t increase with the cost of the works.”

Mr Naughten said there was some price inflation but the main issue was the contractor’s insistence on redoing the insulation. 

“Their argument was that they could only stand over the work if it was all done by them and it had to be that way for the SEAI. But it was over-specced. It seems that contractors are going for gold-plated solutions rather than dealing with the actual needs of the house.

“I don’t know where the issue lies – if the SEAI standards are too rigid or if contractors are looking for mark-up – but it needs to be looked at.

“My grandchildren would be grown up before the cost of what they wanted to do would be paid back.”

Mr Naughten pulled out of the deal and said he had some improvements carried out by non-SEAI contractors which had improved its energy efficiency.

Questions about retrofitting costs were put to the SEAI at the Public Accounts Committee this week.

It said construction inflation hit 15pc last year which had increased the quotes for projects but there was a strong demand for the one-stop scheme with 12 companies now providing the service and more going through the approval process.

It could not comment on Mr Naughten’s case without knowing the full details.

However, the SEAI has commissioned practical studies of various house types to try to better understand insulation needs.​

(Source – Irish Independent – Environment – Caroline O’Doherty, Environment Correspondent – 11/03/2023)

Campaigners Seek Reform Of Retrofit Supports That ‘Favour Wealthy’

Report says transforming the worst performing dwellings into energy-efficient homes could lift people out of energy poverty.

Retrofitting supports are too focused on people with money instead of prioritising those on the lowest incomes in the least energy-efficient homes, poverty and climate campaigners have said.

A redesign of retrofit schemes is among 49 recommendations they make for a complete overhaul of the Government’s approach.

The report, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Ireland, says transforming the worst- performing dwellings into energy-efficient homes could permanently lift people out of energy poverty and cut carbon emissions faster.

“Grants remain skewed to already well-off homeowners and leave many groups and communities who are most at risk of energy poverty out in the cold,” it says.

Under-resourcing of the free home energy upgrade scheme for low-income households means waiting lists of up to three years.

The report adds that the criteria for the scheme needs widening to take greater account of the building energy rating (BER) of houses. This, it says, is because many people were just above the income threshold, but could not afford the extensive works needed on the worst performing homes.

Social housing should also be prioritised, with the aim of getting all local and housing authority homes to B2 standard by 2030.

A minimum BER should be set for all rental properties to push landlords to make energy upgrades, particularly in the one-in-five rentals believed to have an F or G rating.

The report is critical of the universal electricity credit paid over the past year to all households regardless of income.

“One-off payments granted in Budget 2023 have helped many to deal with increases in energy prices, but they do not respond to fundamental issues of income inadequacy and in-
ability to carry out retrofitting measures or access associated schemes,” it says.

Green MEP Ciaran Cuffe led talks on the issue in European Parliament. Photo Frank McGrath

The report, funded by the European Climate Foundation, is based on input from 32 experts on housing, poverty, climate and energy.

Clare O’Connor, energy policy officer at Friends of the Earth, said it showed how the energy, cost-of-living and climate crises and their solutions were intertwined.

“If the Government is serious about meeting climate targets, they will need to change their current approach and do it in a way that protects and prioritises households that are most in need first,” she said.

Under the Climate Action Plan, the Government has a target of retrofitting 500,000 homes to B2 standard by 2030 through various supports. It is off to a slow start.

A new package of regulations approved by EU politicians yesterday could force a rethink of that approach. They have to be approved by member states before becoming law, but if passed, they would place more emphasis on upgrading the least efficient buildings.

They would require all buildings to have a minimum rating of E by 2030 and D by 2033, with a long-term goal of renovating all to zero-emission standard by 2050.

Countries would have to devise national renovation plans to implement the new regulations, but there are exemptions and deferral options that critics said weakened them.

Green Party MEP Ciaran Cuffe, who led the negotiations in the European Parliament, said flexibility was necessary to get agreement.

He hopes the package will become law by the summer.

(Source – Irish Independent – Environment – Caroline O’Doherty, Environment Correspondent – 15/03/2023)

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