Only just over half of the targeted number of households chose to take up the subsidy on solar water heaters and the Resources Ministry wants to find out why.

With less than a month left to apply for the €460 rebate, 2,800 families have applied for assistance even if the government was aiming to help 4,000 when it launched the scheme in February last year.

Once the scheme closes, it will be replaced by another one, this time financed by the European Social Cohesion Funds, and the assistance will be to the tune of €560.

However, unlike previous schemes, not everyone will be eligible for the assistance.

The new scheme will be limited to families entitled to the energy benefit; those who receive supplementary assistance; families that get a fixed children's allowance, having an annual income of under €23,923; all Gozo residents; low-income families; and first-time buyers purchasing property that cost below €120,000.

The grants on solar water heater systems will cover 40 per cent of the expenditure, up to a maximum of €560.

The project is spread over three years and about 2,500 families a year are expected to benefit from the €4.2 million allocated to this scheme.

However, only 2,852 applications were received for the present scheme, which does not bode well for the second one.

A total of 2,592 applicants were issued with a grant letter giving them the go-ahead to install the solar water heater within a four-month period, while some 260 applications could not be processed due to missing information.

So far, €658,720, have been paid out, an MRA spokesman said.

A solar water heater for a family of four costs between €1,300 and €1,600 and the MRA needs to give its go-ahead before the equipment is purchased and installed.

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