I propose to take Questions Nos. 1183, 1184, 1202, 1206 and 1207 together.
The Greener Homes Scheme has been hugely successful since its launch in March 2006, with 16,000 grants approved since its inception. The aim of this scheme was to stimulate demand for renewable heat technologies in homes. The demand is clear and the sector is now on a firm footing. Phase I of the Greener Homes Scheme has delivered in 18 months what was originally envisaged as a five-year programme and all of the €47m budget is now committed. Since Phase I was launched, the number of registered renewable energy installers has increased dramatically and there has been a ten-fold increase in products available on the Irish market. This clearly demonstrates the very significant level of market development since the scheme was first launched.
The first phase of the scheme has achieved all of its objectives speedily and within budget. Consequently, the grant levels are being reduced for some technologies where it is clear that the market has reached a level of maturity to allow it to continue at a lower rate of support. Other grant levels remain unchanged. Phase I of the Greener Homes Scheme was concluded on Monday 3 September and is closed for applications from that date. There will be a pause of 28 days ahead of Phase II being launched on 1st October.
The overall level of funding for Phase II of the Greener Homes Scheme will be decided in the context of the 2008 Estimates and Budget process.
The Greener Homes programme is aimed specifically at the renewable heat sector. The House of Tomorrow programme delivered by Sustainable Energy Ireland has been providing support to developers of new housing, both private and social, to encourage the incorporation of a suite of significantly higher than normal energy efficiency and renewable energy features in their developments.
Funding support under the first phase of this programme was typically at up to €8,000 per unit, subject to an energy and CO2 performance of at least 40% better than required under existing Building Regulations. Influenced by the success of that programme, my colleague John Gormley T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government announced the revised building regulations that will strengthen the mandatory energy performance provisions in law for new housing by 40% and which will require renewable heating technologies to be used in all new buildings.
Having fully, achieved its objectives, the first phase of the House of Tomorrow programme has now been closed. However, we need to continue this process of innovating and improving housing standards further still, to contribute to national policy targets. A second phase of the House of Tomorrow programme will be launched in the near future, under which funding will be available for developments delivering a 60% energy performance improvement over current regulations — equating to around a 20% further improvement over the new regulations. This next cycle of projects will provide vital learning and experience to inform and accelerate the introduction of even higher mandatory standards in 2010.
The level of grants support in the upgraded programme has yet to be finalised, but will be related to the degree of innovation and energy performance being pursued.
Both the White Paper on Energy Policy Framework and the Programme for Government commit to developing Ireland's clear and undoubted potential for distributed generation, including micro-generation, as a long term alternative and supplement to the existing centralised energy distribution system. My Department is already working with all relevant agencies including Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), ESB Networks and the Electro-Technical Council of Ireland, to put in place the appropriate administrative, technical and safety standards and practices to underpin the widespread deployment of micro generation technologies. The question of grant aid for domestic wind turbines will be considered as part of this process.