Ireland
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Retrofitting homes: Most energy upgrade scheme works found to be non-compliant

A “substantial risk” of non-compliant work being carried out under home energy upgrade schemes has been found.

The majority of inspections of energy upgrade works in privately-owned homes at risk of energy poverty failed last year.

Inspections on the Warmer Homes Scheme — which supports upgrading the energy efficiency of privately-owned homes at risk of energy poverty and is 100% grant funded — only had a 45% pass rate.

In 2022, 1,751 properties were inspected, which was 39% of all homes in the scheme. The pass rate was 45%, with reworks needed on 971 buildings. Following these reworks, 98% of these properties passed inspections.

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In another Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) scheme, Better Energy Homes — a national retrofitting programme available to all homeowners — last year 2,104 were inspected, which was 18% of all buildings availing of the scheme. 

Some 54% of these were found to pass the inspection but reworks were needed on 970 buildings, after which 95% passed inspections.

However, due to the timing of the examination, not all reworks relating to 2022 had yet been completed. The findings were revealed in a new report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of Government departments.

In its report on the performance of certain residential retrofit schemes, it noted “a substantial risk of non-compliant work being carried out” under the two home energy retrofit schemes. However, because the inspections are carried out on a targeted basis, the results are probably not representative of the standard of works overall, the report noted.

The SEAI stated that retrofit works inspected can fail on a minor issue.

Depending on the seriousness of the issues involved, grants may be withheld from homeowners, or repayment requested, the report said.

Over the last 10 years, Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme expenditure amounted to €336m on approximately 55,000 upgrades, with upgrades increasing in 2021 and 2022.

Despite the introduction of deeper retrofit funding in 2018, only 228 dwellings have achieved a post-retrofit BER B2 under the scheme in the period 2019 to 2022.

In the second scheme, Better Energy Homes, of the €202m expenditure in the past 10 years, €176m related to approximately 130,000 grant payments. The average value of the grants, per application, has increased since 2019 to around €3,000 per application approved.

An underspend of some €170m was also noted in 2022 across the department, relative to the estimate provision of €321m.

Industry supply chain and workforce constraints and delays in the ramping up of activity under two schemes contributed to the underspend, it noted. 

The national retrofit plan includes a target of retrofitting the equivalent of 500,000 dwellings to BER B2 or cost optimal equivalent by 2030. 

As of the end of 2022, the SEAI had delivered 28% of its B2 or cost optimal target. 

Achievement of the remainder of almost 48,000 upgrades by the SEAI will require a very significant increase in activity level, the report noted.

Ireland’s overall climate target is to achieve a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. However, given current trends, this is unlikely to be achieved, the report noted. 

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) projected that, based on current rates of progress, a reduction of only 29% in greenhouse gas emissions will be achieved by 2030.