The Government’s plans to tackle both climate change and energy poverty are failing, according to Friends the Earth, as research found the number of Irish families who were unable to heat their homes doubled in the space of 12 months.
Publishing their ‘Still Left Out in the Cold’ report on Wednesday, Friends of the Earth put forward 49 recommendations to address rising energy poverty and make Irish homes more energy efficient.
The group added that inadequate incomes, high energy costs and inefficient housing were among the top factors for households falling into energy poverty.
This comes as the Government aims to half carbon emissions by 2030, which includes targets to retrofit 500,000 homes. However, Friends of the Earth claim grants for such schemes “remain skewed to already well-off homeowners, and leave many groups and communities who are most at risk of energy poverty out in the cold”.
The group says the Government’s policies are failing to address the root causes of energy depravation, lacking both scale and ambition.
While they recognise the electricity credits have provided some short-term relief, the group warns these measures risk being counterproductive “as it does not target resources to those in most need of support”.
Among Friends of the Earth’s recommendations is increasing eligibility for the SEAI free retrofitting scheme and offering low-cost financing options to further aid uptake.
The report also suggests new regulations to require landlords to ensure their properties meet a minimum energy performance standard.
More widely, the researchers also call for an increase to core social welfare payments of at least €20, and for the rates to be benchmarked against the cost of living, “in order to address the serious problem of inadequate income”.
“This research shows that if the Government is serious about meeting their climate targets, they will need to change their current approach and do it in a way that protects and prioritises households that are most in-need first,” Friends of the Earth’s energy policy officer Clare O’Connor said.
“Families who can’t afford to pay their energy bills aren’t in a position to invest in expensive retrofitting measures. The report shows how the Government should be going much further to make sure these families have access to the benefits of warm homes and lower energy bills.
“Retrofitting for low-income families in inefficient housing needs to be a top priority – much more investment is needed in State-led retrofitting programmes so they can reach more families, specifically the SEAI Free Energy Upgrade scheme and the Local Authority Retrofit Scheme for social housing,” Ms O’Connor added.