Starting Thursday 19th December, 2019 there will be a number of changes to the Government funded domestic solar photovoltaic (PV) scheme.
Changes to domestic solar PV scheme
From Thursday 19th December
Starting Thursday 19th December, 2019 there will be a number of changes to the Government funded domestic solar photovoltaic (PV) scheme. This scheme has supported the installation of solar PV panels on homes for the generation and self-consumption of renewable electricity. The changes follow a review of the scheme’s operation and uptake over the past 16 months. They are part of the continued evolution of the solar PV scheme, ahead of a transition to the enduring support scheme for microgeneration enabling homeowners and businesses to generate their own electricity, as envisaged in the Climate Action Plan.
The key learnings from the first 16 months of the scheme:
- Applicants were often installing larger capacity systems than their needs; installing 2.8kWp systems on average whereas less than 2kWp is appropriate for the average Irish home. Grant amounts should be rebalanced to steer homeowners to smaller systems with higher levels of self-consumption.
- Prices for battery systems have dropped considerably from starting price of over €3,000 to now around €2,000.
- A fundamental principle of all building upgrades is energy efficiency first. Some homeowners were installing solar PV on homes with very low building energy ratings. Poorer performing homes will typically benefit more from insulation or heating upgrades. Grants for these measures are also available from SEAI.
The scheme changes are as follows:
- Support for 0-2kWp of solar will increase to €900 per kWp installed (pro rata)
- Support for 2-4kWp of solar will decrease to €300 per kWp installed (pro rata)
- Support for battery installation will decrease to €600
- The scheme will transition from a rebate post works approach to a more traditional pre-works application / grant offer model
- To be eligible the home energy performance post-works must be BER C or better
This means the subsidy for the solar panel components remains unchanged for consumers producing up to 3 kWp which is beyond the capacity of the average Irish home, decreasing only after that point. So, for example, someone installing a typical 2kWp system will receive a €1,800 grant. While someone installing a larger 4kWp system with a battery will receive a €3,000 grant. An appropriately sized system will typically pay back the cost, net of grant, in around ten years.
Since the scheme started, over €3.5 million in grants have been paid towards over 1,500 domestic PV systems with an installed capacity of over 5,000 kWp. In the same period, the number of registered PV installers has increased from 13 to over 100, with new companies continuing to register with the scheme.
To date this successful scheme has enabled a growing solar PV installer base and reductions in installation costs. A healthy market for domestic solar PV benefits homeowners through choice and value, in addition to the free electricity they are generating for their homes. At the same time, it is vital that homeowners are guided to invest in appropriately sized solar systems. Oftentimes solar PV is not the best first choice for a home energy upgrade. These changes reflect the learnings from the scheme to date and will rebalance our support to this market in a targeted and appropriate manner.
Homeowners can continue to apply under the existing (2019) grant amounts, terms and conditions until the 19th December 2019. The works must be completed, and all documentation submitted by 31st January 2020.
The next phase of the scheme will open for applications on 7th January 2020 when the application process will change to a more traditional grant application / offer based approach in line with the other SEAI home energy grants.
Possible homeowner scenarios
I have already engaged a contractor and have the solar PV installation completed on my home. What should I do?
If you have completed a solar PV installation at your home, you should fill in the online application on www.seai.ie before December 19th. You must then ensure you have the installation complete and paperwork submitted before 31st January 2020 to avail of the rebate under the old scheme.
I have currently engaged a contractor and am planning to install a solar PV system. What should I do?
If you are underway with a solar PV project, then you should fill in the online application on www.seai.ie before December 19th. You must then ensure you have the installation complete and paperwork submitted before 31st January 2020 to avail of the rebate under the old scheme.
I would like to install solar PV in my home but I’m not yet ready to commence works. What should I do?
If you are thinking of installing a solar PV system and have not yet started, you can find a list of registered contractors on www.seai.ie. Once your home has a BER rating of C or better, or will have after the PV is installed, then you can apply for grant approval before you commence works from January 7th 2020. You will have 8 months to complete the works and submit your declaration of works to receive the grant under the new scheme.
What has the scheme achieved so far?
The scheme has been successful in stimulating the deployment of solar PV and energy storage systems into homes. The technology has been widely accepted by consumers, and there is growing demand with many people installing relatively large systems in their homes. Typically, an installation would provide one-third of a home’s electricity demand.
Industry: Supply chain has grown from 13 to over 100 registered companies in one year. New companies are continuing to register with the scheme.
Standards: Through the scheme, SEAI developed a Code of Practice, which set minimum requirements for good practice installations. Industry associations have welcomed this. SEAI is working with NSAI to develop the future national standard for design and installation of solar PV which will be important to support the continued development of this sector.
What are the changes?
Why make these changes?
- Scaling the grant amounts will steer homeowners towards systems that are sized appropriately for household self-consumption. SEAI has also reviewed prices paid in the first 16 months of operation of the scheme, from which it is clear that larger systems have cost efficiencies versus smaller systems. It is also evident that prices for available battery systems have reduced considerably, even in that short time since scheme commencement.
- Moving to a pre-works application / approval approach has two benefits. It aligns with all other SEAI home energy grants, making the customer proposition more straightforward. It also affords SEAI greater forward clarity on budget commitments.
- A fundamental principle of all building upgrades is energy efficiency first. Around 25% of systems supported through the scheme are in homes with a BER lower than C. While these homes will definitely benefit from the solar PV system, they would likely achieve significantly greater benefit from insulation or heating system upgrades first. [In practice, a home will likely have to be D1 or better to achieve a C rating with solar PV alone. However, a homeowner may use other SEAI grants to upgrade the home’s energy efficiency, prior to tackling the solar PV.]
- Self-consumption of the electricity produced by the solar PV system is where the electricity is consumed by the homeowner and export of electricity to the grid is minimised. Many of the systems installed in the scheme to date have larger type systems than the expected typical demand. This means that the PV system is producing excess electricity during the day from which the homeowner does not benefit. The new supports for the scheme will orientate the design of the system towards optimal sizing and differentiate supports based on size, where the first kWp installed is more expensive than the additional kWp installed.
How and when will SEAI implement the changes?
- Last applications under the current phase of the scheme will be accepted until 5pm on December 19th, 2019.
- Any homeowner who applies to SEAI by the 19th of December, will be assessed in accordance with the current (2019) grant amounts and terms and conditions for the scheme and will have until 5pm on the 31st of January to complete the works and submit documentation to SEAI.
- These grants will be at the current amounts and won’t need to meet the BER C requirement. The rebate processing system will remain available to registered companies to provide supporting documentation up to January 31st, including throughout the period of transition.
- On January 7th 2020 SEAI will open the next phase of the scheme under the new application / approval approach and with the new grant amounts and the minimum BER C requirement. Homeowners will then have 8 months to complete the works.
- SEAI will communicate all scheme changes to all registered contractors and homeowners who have applications in train to let them know of the requirements to claim their rebate grants. All contractors will also be alerted to their responsibilities to inform their customers of the requirements and options for applying and claiming grants.
What will be the new process to apply for solar PV system?
- Find and appoint a registered SEAI solar PV company
- Make an application to SEAI for grant offer. It is critical that homeowners do not start works until they receive the grant offer. (Grant offers are valid for eight months.)
- Apply to ESB Networks to connect the Solar PV system to the electricity network
- Install your solar PV panels
- Get a post-works BER
- Your Solar PV company will submit evidence of works to SEAI
- SEAI process the claim
Will it cost me to check the BER rating of my home?
It was already a requirement to undertake a post-works BER assessment as part of the solar PV scheme. It may be that you already have a BER for your home, check here using your MPRN from your electricity bill https://ndber.seai.ie/pass/ber/search.aspx
If you do not, we recommend that you engage a registered BER assessor https://ndber.seai.ie/PASS/Assessors/Search.aspx for both a pre- and post-works BER certificate to check you are eligible for the scheme.