Dublin, 5 October 2015
Efforts to tackle energy poverty will be prioritised in new energy efficiency programmes facilitated by the Government's Capital Investment Plan, which was published last week. Speaking at the Energy Action Annual Fuel Poverty Conference in Dublin today (Monday), Minister for Energy Alex White said the Government's Capital Plan allocated €130 million in new money for energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes. He said: "When added to existing allocations, this additional funding means we will spend €440 million in this area over the coming years, and I will be giving priority to new supports specifically targeted at people experiencing fuel poverty."
Minister White said that a new 'affordable energy strategy,' to be published before the end of this year, would include measures to improve the uptake of energy efficiency retrofitting schemes in the private rented sector. And he said his officials were working with the HSE on the design of a new programme targeted at people with acute health conditions who live in poorly-insulated homes. He said: "Our intention is to leverage the experience of trusted health professionals to reach people who may be unaware of opportunities like the Warmer Homes Scheme, which could make a big difference to their health and their wealth."
Minister White again pressed energy suppliers to pass on reductions in wholesale energy prices to consumers "as a quickly and as fully as possible." And he said rapid technological developments in areas like smart metering were "primed to give consumers far more control over their energy consumption and fuel bills." Meanwhile, the Government's broader programme was helping address energy poverty by improving incomes through job creation, an increased minimum wage, and the phased restoration of child benefit.
He said 300,000 households had so far benefitted from Government-supported energy efficiency upgrades. "Investing in energy efficiency creates jobs, and it will reduce the €6 billion we spend on fossil fuel imports every year. Most importantly, it will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and help us to tackle global warming and realise our transition to a sustainable economy and society.
"Improving the energy efficiency of our homes is also the single most effective way to alleviate energy poverty. Evidence from Saint Vincent de Pauls – and, indeed from the Warmer Homes Scheme, which has so far upgraded some 120,000 homes – demonstrates that you can halve a household's fuel bills by reducing the amount of energy we waste."
The new money allocated to energy projects in the Capital Plan will fund a range of new measures including a renewable heat incentive, schemes to improve energy efficiency, and incentives to boost the take-up of electric vehicles. It will give a further boost to employment in the energy services and construction sectors, on top of the 2,300 construction jobs already supported annually through the Better Energy Programme.