The passive house standard is a voluntary energy efficiency standard for buildings. The retrofitting of existing dwellings to this new standard is challenging both technically and economically. There are very few examples of large scale passive house retrofit projects internationally. For that reason, it is difficult to place a precise estimate on the likely cost of upgrading all homes in Ireland. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, as required by the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2010/31/EU), has introduced new requirements for home renovation which came into force on 1 November 2019. The impact of this regulation is that when buildings are undergoing a renovation of more than 25% of the surface of the building envelope, the entire building will have to be brought up to a higher energy performance standard. The Directive also requires that all new buildings are nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEB) by 31 December 2020.
The Climate Action Plan has committed to increasing the scale and depth of retrofit activity in order to meet our emissions reduction targets from the Built Environment. This will involve 500,000 homes being upgraded to a BER B2/cost optimal or carbon equivalent by 2030. A cost-optimal analysis commissioned by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (Cost Optimal Residential Report Ireland 2018) estimated the cost to achieve a B2 rating from a starting point of a D/E rating to be in the range of €21,000-€39,000. The cost is higher for homes with lower energy ratings and lower for those with higher ratings.
To deliver our Climate Action Plan target of 500,000 housing upgrades by 2030, we will develop a new retrofitting delivery model. Our plan will:
- Group homes in the same area together to drive down cost
- Start with social homes owned by the local authorities, but will embrace privately owned homes in the wider community
- Develop smart finance options (e.g. loan guarantee models)
- Introduce easy pay back models (e.g. through your utility bill)
Budget 2020 provided €20m to commence this process, starting with groups of social homes in the Midlands to be upgraded at the same time, and expanding to cover privately owned homes also.
The selection of the Midlands to start rolling out this plan is ideal because of the structural changes occurring there and the commitment of regional skills fora to provide the skilled workers.
Budget 2020 has also allocated €146 million for retrofitting homes and businesses through SEAI administered schemes. This record level of investment is an important step towards realising the Government’s Climate Action Plan targets for building retrofits.