Minister announces u-turn on home retrofit grant pay-outs

The Government has been forced to backtrack on a decision not to pay out grants to those retrofitting their homes.

Minister announces u-turn on home retrofit grant pay-outs

The Government has been forced to backtrack on a decision not to pay out grants to those retrofitting their homes.

Around 300 homeowners who applied for a grant to make their properties more energy-efficient had been told the scheme had closed despite the fact that many had already invested thousands of euro in upgrades.

Climate and Environment Minister, Richard Bruton, announced a u-turn - meaning that all of those who applied for funding under the deep retrofitting scheme before the July deadline will have their applications assessed and honoured.

The grant was to provide 50% of the price of extensive household energy upgrades, which can cost homeowners well over €100,000.

After meeting with the chief executive of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), Jim Gannon, Mr Bruton confirmed that anyone who applied for support will now have their applications looked at.

He said: "I can assure anyone who has submitted an application by the closing date that their application will be assessed and honoured in line with the existing terms and conditions of the scheme.

"This was a pilot scheme. It was always the intention to review it - and, in undertaking, they suspended applications.

"I'm not happy with the way this decision was reached, but I can understand it."

The SEAI will now immediately recommence evaluation of the applications with letters of offer issuing from early September.

However, Mr Bruton emphasised that works should not commence until homeowners receive approval to proceed.

The original October deadline for having the retrofitting works complete has also been scrapped and those who avail of the scheme are now likely to have until next year to finish the upgrades.

Mr Bruton added: “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 homeowners and contractors have done to bring applications to this point."

The deep retrofit grant scheme will be drawn down in instalments, with the majority of funding being drawn down in 2020. The SEAI will now engage with contractors to communicate this message.

In the longer term, Mr Bruton said a review will be carried out "to move from individual and small-scale initiatives to a much more scaled-up model" with the aim of retrofitting 500,000 homes.

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

But Sinn Féin climate action spokesman, David Cullinane TD, said that once the current applications have been dealt with the Government needs to shut the scheme down and establish a scheme to invest taxpayers’ money into the retrofitting of the public housing stock.

Mr Cullinane said: “The deep retrofit scheme is a scheme that benefits only those who can afford to invest serious amounts of money into their homes. It is an example of how the Government’s climate plan benefits the well-off.

"What we need to see from the Government is a programme to retrofit the public housing stock and the introduction of new building regulations to ensure that all new builds are energy efficient.”

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