Credit Unions Team Up with SEAI & REIL to Provide Pro Energy Homes Scheme

 

Hundreds of thousands of credit union members throughout Ireland will have access to a new home improvement funding scheme from early May, as the Solution Centre* in conjunction with the SEAI** and REIL*** roll-out its ‘Pro Energy Homes Scheme[1] to twenty participating credit unions across the country. The scheme, which was piloted in five credit unions from August to September last year, is reported to have been hugely popular amongst people looking to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of their home.

 

The one-stop-shop package is a collaboration of the Solution Centre, a strategic development unit for credit unions that supplies product development and business supports to Ireland’s credit union sector, Retrofit Ireland (‘REIL’) who are experts in project managing residential retrofits and energy upgrades at a national level and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (‘SEAI’), Ireland’s national sustainable energy authority.

 

The scheme combines a dedicated project manager to support applicants every step of the way, a heavily subsidised home survey and report, easy access to SEAI grant funding of 35% towards the cost of approved energy upgrades to an applicant’s home together with low cost finance for the balance of the costs from participating credit unions.

 

Cathal Tyther, Manager of the Solution Centre which works with forty-eight credit unions, commented on the planned nationwide roll-out of the scheme,

“We weren’t surprised by the strong uptake during the pilot phase, as a recent SEAI consumer survey found that 74% of people said that they hadn’t previously considered upgrading their property as they did not have sufficient funds to consider an energy reduction project in their home. We are delighted that our credit unions are supporting their members by providing low cost finance to make energy upgrades attainable for more people because the benefits for our members, their communities and environment are enormous. This year we are targeting a ten-fold increase in the amount of works the scheme supports, by expanding the scheme to around twenty credit unions nationally. Our main focus is to make the homes more comfortable, more efficient and to reduce carbon emissions. We will also be extending the original deadline to allow the initiative to run over the Summer months and into early Autumn – so that people can avail of the long evenings and fine weather to get external home works carried out.

 

During the pilot phase involving five credit unions across Dublin, participants borrowed an average of €10,000 and spent an average of €15,000.

 

Preferred upgrades included:

  • Attic insulation
  • Cavity wall insulation
  • External wall insulation
  • Solar thermal panels (hot water)
  • Heating system and controls upgrade
  • Windows upgrades

 

As programme coordinators, REIL are responsible for the procurement and completion of all works.

 

Paddy Sweeney, Managing Director of REIL said;

“With this initiative we have taken all the ‘leg-work’ away from the homeowner. All they need to do is fill out an application form, after which REIL will conduct an assessment on their property and present them with a report. They can then decide whether or not they would like to proceed. Absolutely no money changes hands until all improvements have been made. From beginning to end, the input required by the home owner is minimal.

 

The way this scheme is structured, there is easy access to grant funding which will significantly reduce the cost (by 35%), while repayments on the credit union loan funding the balance of the costs of works can typically be expected to be largely offset by the reduced energy cost in the majority of cases. The payback periods can be relatively short, particularly for items such as attic and cavity wall insulation, heating controls and replacing an open fire with a solid fuel stove. This means many people funding this with a credit union loan over 5-7 years could be making net savings within 5 years, as well as having a cosier house from the get-go.”

 

Speaking of the decision to roll out this scheme across the country, Kevin Johnson, CEO of CUDA, the representative and lobby group for many of Ireland’s largest credit unions and the organisation behind the Solution Centre, commented,

“The idea of making a home cosier and cheaper to run appeals to most homeowners, but they struggle to know what to do and who to talk to, and the idea of completing grant and loan applications forms is enough to put most people off. We knew that if we wanted to encourage homeowners to significantly improve the energy efficiency of their homes, we needed to make it easy for them to do so. And that’s exactly with the scheme does.

 

This is an important first step for credit unions in supporting their communities by providing finance for sustainable purposes. While this scheme runs for a limited time, we are making a long-term commitment to supporting energy sustainability for home owners and we intend to extend our support by providing low cost finance for electric vehicles and businesses in the very near future and the rebrand to ProEnergy is done in anticipation of this.”

 

 

 

Speaking in advance of the launch, Josephine Maguire, National Coordinator for Better Energy with SEAI said,

 

“The availability of attractive finance options is an important factor in people’s decision to upgrade their homes. Easier access to low cost finance from a local credit union should be very attractive to many people. SEAI’s role is to help homes, businesses and communities to be more energy efficient so we are delighted to support innovative initiatives which improve uptake of sustainable home energy solutions.”

 

Home Energy Saving Loan Steps – How it works

  • Client fills in Expression of Interest (EOI) Form and hands in to Credit Union staff
  • EOI form is sent to REIL and they arrange an expert Home Energy Survey
  • Once the survey is complete, the Applicant is issued with a report and given 30 days to decide whether they wish to proceed.
  • If they proceed, the Applicant decides what upgrades to complete from those recommended in the survey report and applies for a credit union loan for the net cost of works at a special interest rate of 6.9% or less.
  • Once loan approval is given, REIL will arrange procurement of contractors to complete the works and will oversee the completion of all works.
  • When works are complete, REIL inspect all works to ensure they are up to r national building standards and arrange a post-BER assessment. The loan is then advanced to cover the cost of works.
  • Once payment is received, REIL issues client with a receipt of payment. That’s it!

 

Participating Credit Unions:

 

Dublin (launch now) Rest of Country (launch 24th May)
·       Blanchardstown

·       Capital

·       Community

·       Core

·       Dubco

·       ESCCU

·       Member First

·       South Dublin

·       Bray, Wicklow

·       Greystones, Wicklow

·       Limerick and District, Limerick

·       MPCC, Limerick

·       Croi Laighean, Kildare

·       St. Anthony’s and Claddagh, Galway

·       St. Columba’s, Galway

·       St. Jarlath’s, Galway

·       Dundalk, Louth

 

-Ends-

[1] ProEnergy Homes is an innovative partnership between credit unions and Retrofit Energy Ireland Ltd (REIL) with the support of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).