Decision to end grants under SEAI scheme is reversed

Updated / Monday, 19 Aug 2019 17:06

The scheme was announced in 2017 to help people retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient

By Louise Byrne

Homeowners who applied for a grant to improve the energy efficiency of their properties will have their applications processed following the reversal of a decision to end the scheme.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton has confirmed more than 300 homeowners who had been awaiting approval for the Deep Retrofit Grant will have their applications assessed and honoured "in line with the existing terms and conditions".

The scheme was announced in 2017 to help people retrofit their homes and grants of up to €60,000 were available from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

The SEAI announced last week that it would give grants only to projects that had already been approved.

Minister Bruton told RTÉ's News at One that he regretted the distress caused to homeowners.

He said it was unreasonable to expect people to wait for a review before processing outstanding applications.

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

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

Mr Bruton said that despite advice not to proceed with work before approval there was a level of "expectation" among homeowners and contractors.

"The nature of the scheme would have had a lot of pre-planning. We have made sure people will have certainty," he said.

Minister Bruton denied that funding for the scheme had been reallocated and said it would have a budget this year of €10m.

"We will be able to manage this within our budgets," he added.

Conor Murphy, one of those who had been facing a significant bill for energy-saving work, said the announcement was a "huge relief".

Tipperary Energy, which was among contractors applying for the grant on behalf of homeowners, welcomed the move saying clients had been through a stressful time.

"While the scheme itself was a pilot with technical learning at the core of the scheme, it has driven a clear drive for resources and upskilling in the deep renovation marketplace."

A number of homeowners began renovations ahead of grant approval because of a deadline of October to complete any works.

The Department has confirmed that this deadline will no longer apply and the majority of funding will be drawn down in 2020.

Mr Bruton also announced the establishment of a task force to "drive forward" Government plans to retrofit 500,000 homes under the Climate Action Plan.

A pilot will be designed to test a new model of retrofitting.

Mr Bruton said: "The retrofitting of 500,000 homes, to make them warmer and more energy-efficient, is a key action under the Climate Action Plan."

It is expected that the new pilot will group homes together, create payback mechanisms such as electricity bill, and include access to new smart finance and loan options.