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'A shambles': Homeowners angry after funding stops for pilot grant scheme to help retrofit homes

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland said there was no more funding available.
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HOMEOWNERS PLANNING TO retrofit their homes have expressed shock and anger at the announcement that there is no more funding for a pilot grant scheme from Ireland’s sustainable energy authority. 

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) sent an email today to service providers informing them that there was no more funding available for its Deep Retrofit Pilot programme.

“SEAI and DCCAE (Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment) will now undertake a review of the pilot,” the email reads. 

“This review is likely to extend well into 2020. SEAI is unable to offer any further funding for Deep Retrofit Pilot applications this year so, for now, evaluation of all open applications is suspended.

“It is not possible at this stage to say with any certainty whether currently open applications will ultimately be reconsidered for funding once the review is complete.”

The pilot was launched in 2017 and committed funding for people looking to perform a “deep retrofit” on their homes, meaning to significantly upgrade and improve their energy efficiency. 

The SEAI pilot grant was to provide 50% towards the cost of the deep retrofit, which can run into well over €100,000 to have done. 

Homeowners applied to the SEAI on the assumption the grant would be provided. The announcement today that funding has been pulled has come as a blow to people who have already begun works on their properties. 

The pilot closed to applications on 19 July, with those who submitted before this date under the assumption the grant would be provided. SEAI said available funding was now fully committed to 350 deep retrofit upgrades across 55 projects

“A shambles”

Kieran Carew of Fast Eco Build – an insulation contractor – told TheJournal.ie his company had submitted applications for 40 households to avail of the grant and that the decision to suspend it would come as a blow to his customers. 

“There’s an awful lot of people that would be very upset,” he said. 

“A lot of people were looking at it as an opportunity to do modifications to their homes… Some people have moved out of their houses – they’re living in mobile homes, in rented accommodation.

It’s an absolute shambles because there was an expectation there. SEAI – a government body – were advertising telling people that this way to go to provide reduce down their carbon footprint… then they decide ‘we’ve enough now’.

Carew said that he had been speaking to SEAI last week and that there was “no hint whatsoever that this would be knocked on the head”.

SEAI statement

In a statement, SEAI said there was a “strong, sustained demand for the pilot programme as a direct result of the increased, positive dialogue across Irish society regarding climate change”.

“Any project co-ordinator who made an application and received a Letter of Grant Offer can be absolutely assured that the grant offer will be fully honoured as and when agreed upgrade works are completed,” a spokesperson said. 

They said that applicants who applications had not been evaluated or received a Letter of Offer were subject to the terms and conditions of the scheme.

The spokesperson said that these “explicitly state that the project should not commence until confirmation that funding has been approved for the project in question”.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock said that the process of the pilot scheme had been “messy” and “riven with indecision” and “clearly undermines and erodes people’s faith in both this scheme and organisation”.

“With climate change top of the agenda for many, organisations like this should be communicating clearly, encouraging people and acting in good faith,” he said.

The SEAI and all involved should be working to insulate homes rather than themselves.

SEAI’s CEO Jim Gannon has also stepped down from his role. He has now been appointed to the position of Commissioner in the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU).

Retrofitting hundreds of thousands of residential homes with a low energy efficiency rating is seen as a key challenge by government towards helping the country meet its climate goals. 

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