Deputies

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Fuel poverty strategy launched

‘Irish housing only shelters from the rain’

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte informed the Dail that he had published the affordable energy strategy, with five priority measures and 48 actions to tackle fuel poverty (Dail Eireann, Debates, 29th November 2011, 3-5, 11-13).  Improving the energy efficiency of low-income homes through permanent structural improvements was the most effective way of addressing energy efficiency.  The government had spent €100m this year on the retrofit programme which benefitted 60,000 homes with the spin-off of 6,700 jobs.  He told Martin Ferris (SF, Kerry N) that the biggest single contributor to fuel poverty was the poor standard of thermal efficiency in houses: one can give as much as one wants to the fuel allowance, but if the house were badly insulated, much of it goes up the chimney.  He had been having discussions with banks and energy supply companies about a pay-as-you-save scheme to retrofit more widely and remunerate the cost of doing that out of savings in energy bills.  He added that when he had met the Construction Industry Federation about how it could help, one of them had said “to tell you the truth, minister, most of the houses in Ireland are only shelters from the rain” – but he had built a great number of them himself.  If that was the standard, it had to be their first target.

 

Criticized about the reduction of free electricity units from 2,400 to 1,800, bringing them back to 2007 levels, he told Billy Kelleher (FF, Cork NC) and Eamon O Cuiv (FF, Galway W) that over the past ten years they had spent €2bn on fuel support schemes but only €70m on improving thermal efficiency.  That was the single biggest issue confronting us.