We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.


Opinion The new retrofitting scheme must move fast to make any kind of difference

Dr Wendy Rowan & Dr Stephen McCarthy welcome the new scheme but say it must be made as easy as possible for all to use.

THE GOVERNMENT’S NEW retrofitting scheme represents a significant step-change in how we are going to reduce residential carbon emissions.

Not without flaws, the multi-billion euro programme lays out practical measures that will benefit households by reducing energy bills in the medium to long term.

Although that is not what those who find themselves being squeezed by rising inflation and high energy costs want to hear, the plan does demonstrate that the State is serious about undertaking a just transition as we progress toward 2030.

In short, it is a radical plan that serves to address the demands of households and the climate crisis.

Helping with cost

The Home Energy Upgrade Scheme will cover half the cost of a deep retrofit, the price of insulating attics and cavity walls will typically be reduced to €500, and the free energy upgrade scheme for low-income households will be expanded.

Although details relating to the Government’s loan guarantee scheme have yet to be announced, they have suggested that households will be able to finance the after-grant cost of retrofitting through low-interest borrowing.

Estimates put the post-grant cost of a deep retrofit at around €15,000, which amounts to repayments of between €16 to €149 per month depending on the terms and duration of the loan. To help pay for the retrofitting scheme, the state has set aside €8 billion to provide up to €25,000 towards the cost of completing works to individual houses.

This new iteration of the retrofitting scheme should serve to regenerate Ireland’s housing stock and close the rift that has emerged between some Dublin postcodes and counties like Offaly and Roscommon, where only 7% of properties hold a BER rating of “A” or “B”.

Additionally, as they tend to be older, houses in rural areas generally have fewer energy-saving features, which is a particular issue in a number of provincial towns in Connacht and Munster where fuel poverty is a very real concern.

Urban and rural

That isn’t to say that there is a specific urban/rural divide when it comes to insulation and energy efficiency. The CSO, for example, has estimated that just over 1,000 homes in Dublin 7 have a BER rating of E2.

However, what it does show is that targeted measures are needed to capitalise on the momentum the Government have created. Multiple research projects have demonstrated that climate action is driven by cost rather than extreme weather events or alarming temperature rises.

As such, the state agencies tasked with implementing the scheme will need to act with urgency and reach out to individual communities. They will need to highlight the tangible benefits of the various grants and demonstrate that the cost of drawing down loans will be less than the savings that are generated.

Rather than talk about energy ratings, kilowatt hours, interest rates or carbon emissions, those tasked with managing the retrofitting programme will need to communicate in a way that speaks to people’s bottom line.


They will also need to make it very clear that retrofitting is free for those who receive certain welfare payments. This single aspect of the programme has the potential to transform the homes of the 17.5% of the population who are in or at risk of, fuel poverty and should be commended.

To make it easy for people to apply for loans and to secure grants, the “one-stop-shop” needs to be easy to navigate and the application system has to strike a balance that meets the demands of governance and accessibility.

The system also needs to cater for diverse groups who will want different things from the programme. In the past, consumers were left to work out for themselves whether they were eligible to apply for schemes and the cost implications associated with them.

This was somewhat confusing and led to rural households, along with those living in older homes, abandoning their applications at a variety of stages. Consequently, if the SEAI is to achieve its target, consumers need to be able to complete the application process quickly.

The most challenging aspect of the scheme will be attaining the 17,500 construction workers needed to upgrade 500,000 homes. At the moment, due to pandemic related delays, there is a waiting list of over 7,500 households trying to avail of the free Home Energy Upgrade Scheme.

To meet targets, the SEAI needs to increase the rate of completions from around 170 a month to 400.

That, of course, will be difficult, but given the contractual certainty the programme provides contractors, and the rapid delivery of upskilling programmes for construction professionals, it may be achievable without too much of a delay.

Finally, the plan doesn’t really offer landlords the incentive to carry out works, or for tenants to engage in a process whereby they can engage with property owners to improve their homes. As a result, we could be at risk of creating a two-tier rental stock, where some properties will remain cold and damp well into the next decade.

This reflects how the housing crisis is colliding with the climate crisis and needs its own strategy if it is to be resolved.

Notwithstanding some of the issues that need to be ironed out, the new retrofitting programme has secured the attention of the public. Retaining that interest is now the challenge facing the Government as it moves to make good on its ambition.

Dr Wendy Rowan and Dr Stephen McCarthy are senior researchers on a Horizon2020 funded project which developed ACT4ECO, a free education platform that empowers consumers to sensibly consume energy in the home.


Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Dr Wendy Rowan & Dr Stephen McCarthy
Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel