Saving money is usually the selling point when driving energy efficiency measures, but when it comes to retrofitting we need to broaden the definition of savings. The reality is that a major home renovation doesn’t pay off quickly financially.
That doesn’t mean the hordes that have contacted the Sustainable Energy Agency of Ireland (SEAI) about the new grants are up to no good.
Since the details of the National Home Energy Upgrade Scheme were announced, inquiries have increased three and a half times and the interest is a positive sign of growing consumer awareness.
SEAI has had to wait before releasing details of its first two approved “one-stop-shop” retrofit suppliers for fear of being overwhelmed with inquiries.
Another two will be approved this week and details of all four will then come online to share the load, with 15 or 16 more to come in the coming months.
But if jingling bags are your main draw to check out the site, be prepared to take a longer-term, more comprehensive view of your investment.
Even with the recent massive increases in gas and electricity bills, spending on reducing energy use through quality insulation, heat pumps and solar panels is significant and will take time to pay for itself.
But there are some key points worth considering.
The program, which covers 50 percent of the cost of a major retrofit, is one of the most generous around.
Of course, generosity means little if you still can’t halfway meet the grants, but if you’re able to make the investment and are waiting for something better, you can wait quite a while.
Soft loans will also be available later this year to cover half of the budget.
They are government-backed, meaning lenders don’t have to add a premium to cover potential defaults, so interest rates shouldn’t exceed 3-3.5 percent, with long payback periods allowed.
The hope is that reducing energy bills would match monthly loan repayments.
If you’re wary, tight on cash, or both, dipping your toe into retrofitting by limiting the work to insulating your attic and cavity walls can be a good option.
The claim is that it can reduce energy use by 25 percent, which is roughly the percentage that energy costs have increased.
The average cost is around €2,500 and there is now an 80 part grant, leaving €500 to find yourself.
Why not go all out and provide 100 part financing for €500?
SEAI told an Oireachtas committee last week that it had been considered, but modeling of consumer behavior showed it would not result in more people isolating.
Inconveniences, lack of interest, and lack of incentives related to rental housing all conspire to lure property owners into participating in the program.
There is also a risk of fueling inflation, the SEAI warned in a dovish but insightful comment on the construction industry.
Another point to consider is that the microgeneration support scheme is scheduled to be properly operational by June.
This allows anyone who has solar panels that feed excess electricity back into the national grid to be paid for that electricity through a discount on their bills.
The payment scheme is awkwardly dubbed a “clean export guarantee,” and households that already have solar panels should sign up for it, as they can already start building credit, which will be converted into rebates from June.
It is up to individual electricity companies to offer a tariff for the electricity that their customers ‘feed’ into the grid, but the hope is that competition for customers will make the offers more attractive.
Nobody will get rich from the program, but the idea is that it will help recover the cost of the investment.
The same approach applies to electric vehicles. The initial cost is higher than a similarly sized petrol or diesel car, but the combination of purchase subsidies, home charger subsidies, tax breaks and much lower running costs pays off over time.
Much of the political clamor surrounding EV retrofits and transitions focuses on the costs and exclusion of low-income, overburdened households who cannot afford to make better choices, and they deserve attention.
But there is a risk of ending the conversation and excluding those who could make changes but are put off by the constant refrain that it’s not value for money.
These are not profitable investments – they are energy-saving, carbon-eliminating, emission-reducing and climate-sensitive measures.
It will be nice if they save money, but the real goal here is to save our skins.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/if-jangling-pockets-are-what-youre-after-retrofitting-might-require-a-longer-view-41540140.html If you’re looking for clinking bags, retrofitting might require longer viewing