Government to tackle energy poverty head-on

28 Nov 2011

A new energy direction for Ireland to help everyone afford home heating

Warmer Homes: A Strategy for Affordable Energy in Ireland is a new Government initiative to help people on low incomes afford electricity, especially during cold spells this winter.

Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, TD, has announced details of the newly published report, which sets out a strategy for improving the affordability of energy for low-income households.

Measuring poverty

Significantly, the strategy also introduces a new approach to measuring energy poverty, which will help target at-risk households.

Think of this time last year when Ireland had a deluge of snow, forcing many of us to work from home. And for those who had lost their jobs, or who were elderly and on small pensions, it was an even tougher scenario, as some households couldn’t make ends meet to pay for energy to heat their homes.

In light of last year’s tough weather conditions, the Government has launched this strategy before it brings out Budget 2012, which incidentally will be unveiled over two days by two different ministers –  Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, TD, and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, TD – on 5 and 6 December next.

Budget and energy

Speaking yesterday, Rabbitte explained the reasoning behind the new energy strategy.

“While the Government faces difficult economic decisions in the coming weeks, we can’t forget those most in need – particularly as we face into another winter. We need a strategy that prioritises what can be done to protect low-income households.”

The strategy was developed by the Inter-Departmental/Agency Group on Affordable Energy and includes 47 actions.

Key highlights include:

  • The introduction of minimum thermal efficiency standards for all properties offered for rent
  • Reviewing the National Fuel and Household Benefits Schemes to see how Ireland’s Government can target cash supports effectively and prioritise colder homes
  • Achieving economies and harnessing community effort by the introduction of an area-based approach to mitigating energy poverty.

The minister said yesterday that this energy poverty strategy is not something that Ireland will achieve overnight.

“The Programme for Government was clear that we needed a new way of thinking about the whole issue of energy poverty. The publication of this strategy marks a hugely important milestone in ensuring that we protect those most vulnerable in our society in a co-ordinated, cohesive and effective way.”

The strategy will be implemented and monitored by the members of the Inter-Departmental/Agency Group on Affordable Energy who will prioritise five work packages in the coming months on:

  • Thermal efficiency standards
  • Energy suppliers
  • Area-based approach
  • Data and information
  • Communication.

Click here for more information on the strategy.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic