Monday 9 February 2009

€100m insulation scheme to benefit 50,000 homes

A €100 MILLION national insulation programme will benefit 50,000 homes and employ 4,000 people during 2009, Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has said.

Mr Ryan said the programme would save money through reduced heating bills, reduce carbon emissions and also create thousands of jobs directly and indirectly.

“This is the equivalent of putting the plug in the bath,” he said. “Insulation makes homes warmer and more comfortable. Householders can expect to have their heating bills reduced by €700 per annum.”

However, at this stage, Mr Ryan accepted no funding has yet been guaranteed for 2010 or beyond. It is estimated that at least one million homes of Ireland’s 1.7 million housing stock are in need of retrofitting.

Two separate areas have been allotted €50 million each in funding; a home energy saving scheme as well as two separate schemes targeting those on lower incomes and in social housing. Under the home energy scheme, targeted at private middle-income homes, householders will get grant aid of between €500 and about €5,000 for improvements carried out on the insulation of their homes. All dwellings constructed prior to 2006 will be eligible.

The lowest grant available is €250 for improved attic insulation, which will provide 30 per cent of the cost for a typical suburban house of carrying out this measure. The largest single grant is a €4,000 contribution to work on external wall insulation. This will contribute an estimated 21 per cent of the €19,000 cost for a typical home. Householders are entitled to avail of all the grants that are applicable to their own situation.

Estimates provided by the department say that most of the investments can be fully recouped within six years, save for wall insulation, which will take between seven and 20 years, depending on the house.

Mr Ryan also said that he has already spoken to four of the main banks to persuade them to lend to homeowners getting involved in the programme and had received positive feedback.

“There is a lot of support. They see that it makes sense. It’s an attractive prospect. Banks have a real opportunity and role here to make up the amount. This is the best lending that you can do,” he said.

Mr Ryan was speaking at a press conference in Government Buildings which was also attended by Minster for the Environment John Gormley and Prof Owen Wilson, the CEO of Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), which will administer the scheme.

Prof Wilson said that the SEI was “open for business” on the initiative. However, he said that the body would need immediately to begin a registration programme for contractors with the required competence to carry out such works. The other €50 million will expand the existing Warmer Homes Scheme (WHS) for low income households and a scheme aimed at social housing. WHS is currently being administered by 20 community-based organisations throughout the country. Upgrades available include the provision of lagging jackets, attic insulation, cavity wall insulation and draught-proofing.

The Opposition parties gave a guarded welcome to the announcement yesterday. Fine Gael energy spokesman Simon Coveney said the principle was a good one but said that he would be robustly testing the figures to see if it provided value for money.

Liz McManus of the Labour Party said she was glad that at long last a scheme that had been promised for so long had been delivered. “I think they could have gone further,” she said. “I am convinced that people on higher incomes who have savings would have been persuaded to invest if they got tax relief for doing so.”

How the scheme works

THE SCHEME is aimed at middle-income homes and claims that energy savings of €700 per year can be achieved.

Six different types of work to retrofit houses and improve insulation are eligible under the scheme. A minimum level of investment will be required of householders to participate.

The minimum grant is €500 which means that householders doing either attic insulation (grant of €250) or cavity wall insulation (grant of €500) will be required to carry out at least one other action if they are to quality.

Estimates for payback on investment range from three years (attic insulation) to a maximum of 20 years for external wall insulation.

* Attic insulation: A maximum grant of €250 is available. This covers 30 per cent of the estimated €830 bill. The cost will be fully paid back in 3-6 years.

* Wall insulation. Homeowners will have a choice between three forms: cavity wall; external; or internal. Cavity is the most economical and external the most expensive. The grant for cavity insulation is €400 which will be a third of the typical cost. Some €2.500 of the €9,000 required for internal wall insulation will be grant-aided while €4,000 will be available of the €19,000 needed for external wall insulation.

* Between €500 to €700 will be available for heating control upgrades.

* €200 will be paid towards a building energy rating assessment.

Irish Times

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