The Tipperary Energy Agency is very disappointed in the announcement yesterday on the status of the pilot deep retrofit program run by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). It is clear that only a very small percentage of demand in 2019 is now going to be completed. The industry has been trying to get information on the status of applications for many months and the poor communication has resulted in a hugely stressful situation for a large number of householders. The announcement that there is unlikely to be no new retrofit program until 2021 leaves homeowners and the industry in limbo.
The Deep Retrofit Pilot in 2017 was launched to ascertain how a model of deeper renovation could be achieved in Ireland. The Tipperary Energy Agency, and others, had been calling for a deep retrofit project for some time prior to this and the Agency had launched its SuperHomes Program in 2015. The SEAI run pilot was a 3-year program that should have had €21M available. The Tipperary Energy Agency have strongly supported the delivery of this program by driving significant demand and capacity in the market. While acknowledging the initial slow take up after the programme delivered significantly positive outcomes for householders the demand ramped up in 2019. We are now faced with the fact that only a very small portion of this 2019 demand was fulfilled, leading to disappointed homeowners, contractors and service providers. Just when a retrofit market had developed capacity, skills and markets there is now another period of waiting.
Notwithstanding that the programme was established as a pilot, and the associated terms and conditions, we are particularly disappointed that the lack of available funds was not signalled to the market earlier. It would appear from statements issued in the past two days that it was clear the funds would be exhausted in March or early April. This was not communicated to homeowners, contractors or anyone involved leaving people to continue to develop projects in good faith. This lack of communication, coupled with the 3-6 month timeframe of a deep retrofit left many homeowners faced with the dilemma of either planning a deep retrofit or not. Contracts for construction work need to be signed clearly with all works included and this would be required for most homes in May/June at the latest for October finishing. We regret that homeowners were put in this position and are working with them to attempt to figure out a potential solution on an individual basis.
Over the last 5 years, the Tipperary Energy Agency CLG has deep retrofitted over 200 homes (through the Better Energy Communities or Deep Retrofit programs) and are fully convinced that a sensible package of insulation measures coupled with a heat pump, air tightness and a ventilation system is the most cost effective and technically sustainable method of retrofitting. The delay of another 18 months for the long term deep retrofit scheme will result in SMEs, contractors and homeowners losing faith in this industry and mass redeployment of skills away from retrofitting. It has taken three years to get to a point where approximately 1000 homes per annum are retrofitted, it will take longer to rebuild the confidence in householders and contractors alike. We simply do not have the time for this delay.
The reality of the acceleration of climate breakdown is upon us (record heat waves, collapsing ice sheets and Siberian wildfires covering areas greater than Europe) and the Governments Climate Action Plan proports to aim to tackle this issue. While lessons can be learned from the pilot a delay of 18 months is not acceptable. We need increased ambition, and more capacity and competence at Government and relevant state organisations to address the climate action emergency.