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Retrofit scheme: Pre-deadline applications WILL be processed despite closure

The minister has sought to assure homeowners worried about the end of the pilot programme.

Image: Shutterstock

ALL APPLICANTS TO the now-closed Deep Retrofit Pilot programme who made a submission before the July deadline will have their applications processed, Environment Minister Richard Bruton said today.

The move offers reassurance to homeowners applying to the scheme after they were told last week that all open applications were suspended.

Bruton made the pledge today after a meeting with the chief executive of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which was operating the scheme.

The programme 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.

Last week it was announced there was no more funding for the scheme, angering homeowners who had applied to it and left in limbo.

The pilot closed to applications on 19 July, with those who submitted before this date under the assumption the grant would be provided.

In June, Bruton said that 219 of the 265 applications submitted this year remained “under evaluation”.

Speaking today, the minister has said that any applications made before this date would be “assessed and honoured in line with the existing terms and conditions of the scheme”.

“The SEAI have assured me that they will immediately recommence evaluation of the applications on hand and I expect that letters of offer will begin to issue from early September 2019 to all eligible applicants. I would stress that works should not commence until you receive approval to proceed,” Bruton said.

Given the huge level of interest in this scheme, I believe that putting applications received on hold while a new review is carried out is not providing enough certainty given the huge amount of work and energy that home owners and contractors have done to bring applications to this point.

It had been understood that applicants needed to have their refurbishment completed by the end of September to qualify for reimbursement for the retrofit.

The minister has said today that this is not the case and assured contractors and homeowners that the October deadline to complete retrofitting works will not apply, with completion dates likely to move into 2020 for new grants offered.

The grants are to be drawn down in installments with most funding drawn down in 2019.

Climate action

The government’s Climate Action Plan targets the retrofitting of 500,000 homes as part of wider efforts to tackle climate change.

The pilot scheme predates this action plan and the minister said today that a new taskforce is being established to develop a new model to ensure that retrofitting continues.

“We need to move from individual and small-scale initiatives to a much more scaled up model,” the minister said.

Not only will these upgrades help us deliver on our climate commitments, but they will result in cleaner, healthier, warmer homes and will save homeowners money through cheaper energy bills.

“The new model will group home retrofits in the same area together to reduce costs, develop easy pay back mechanisms like through your electricity bill, and get access to new smart finance and loan options.”

The department said that such pay back mechanisms could be similar to the Bike to Work scheme and allow homeowners pay for upgrades through utility bills.

The idea is that homeowners who retrofit their homes would have lower utility bills due to energy savings.

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Rónán Duffy

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