Solar Panels – Better Energy Home Scheme Grants static.
We had a quick look at the statistics from the Better Energy Homes Scheme Grants from SEAI today. We were looking for some sign of improvement in the uptake of solar panels for heating water under this scheme but unfortunately were met with a very static if not negative picture. As you can see from the graph below the installation of solar panels under this scheme remain fairly constant per month for the past two years and show no signs of improving for 2014. But is this indicative of the market for solar panels for heating water in Ireland completely? We think not exactly.
Grant scheme is its own worst enemy.
When the Better Energy Homes Scheme began it took over from the fairly successful Greener Homes scheme which saw reasonable activity from installing solar panels. Some new criteria were introduced at this point which made it more difficult for installers to install solar panels at the same cost. Most notably these were a requirement to design the size of the solar panels relative to the size of the house and ensure the plumbing works in a hot press were earthed according to modern building regulations. Both of these requirements at once made it more difficult and more expensive for solar panels to be installed under the scheme. This runs contrary to the goals of the scheme in the first place which is there to make it easier and less costly to install solar panels and other renewables. The golden rule when trying to make people change their habits is to make it easy to change to the better and desired option – it has to be easy to make happen and easy to afford – easy easy easy.. But the grant makes it hard.
The outcome of this more difficult grant process is that those interested in installing solar panels are often offered two choices. One grant aided option where the solar panels are designed for the house size which is often too big particularly in rural areas which have large houses with low occupancy. Added to this option is the requirement to upgrade the earth bonding in the hot press which adds costs to the installation of the solar panels, whilst this is a safety issue that should be addressed the fact is that the SEAI are using a grant designed for solar panels as a vehicle for upgrading the electrics in our housing stock. Which is it to be?
The second option that is on offer is a non grant aided installation at a discounted price. There is no paperwork, no increased earth bonding requirement, the solar panels are designed to the householders requirement and the price is right. Whilst the grant will suit some homes the easier and cheaper solution for many householders and solar installers is to proceed without the grant.
See the SEAI statistics here