European Fuel Poverty Conference

Dublin 11 – 12 March 2013

Friday 22 March 2013. Energy Action Ltd was again this year to the forefront in organising the European Fuel Poverty Conference held this week in Dublin.

The conference title was ‘Re-framing Fuel Poverty in Europe’ and was sponsored this year by the energy companies Electric Ireland, Bord Gais Energy and Airtricity. It is clear that Ireland again is setting European standards in endeavouring to address issues of fuel poverty for vulnerable households throughout the community.

‘Fuel Poverty’ is generally defined as being present in those households where in excess of ‘10% of income’ goes toward achieving satisfactory indoor temperatures’ (usually 20C and 18C for living rooms and  bedrooms respectively). The conference showed up in a very sobering way the increasing fuel poverty present in Ireland and its slow expansion throughout the community. The implications for people of such poverty includes not just challenging living conditions, but  in some cases, death; the latter reflected in particular through the very real statistics of ‘Excess Winter Deaths’ related to such poor living conditions.

These very real health issues related to low temperature living are year on year, becoming clearer and better researched, On average, it is estimated that at least 1,800 people die on the island of Ireland every year from living in cold homes –almost five times the number of people who die on the roads here.

The presentations at the conference, reflected such a great international body of research, data and positive action related to fuel poverty, (ranging from New Zealand to Liverpool to Budapest) and included projects which all demonstrated the very significant societital benefits and in particular job creation which can result from tackling face on, this very real social problem through home energy upgrades, smart metering and deep retrofits.

The implications for all of us working and canvassing for low energy buildings within an Irish Building Industry (which is so badly in need of such jobs), is to pursue an agenda of deep retrofit up to passive standard (Enerphit) where possible. Such deep retrofits have shown again and again internationally, to give the best value for money spent against social benefits, health gains and construction training; in many cases to a cost benefit of €3 to €4 for every €1 spent.

One particular highlight of the conference was the Energy Bill Revolution currently taking off in the UK. This attempts to ring fence carbon taxes to support retrofit programmes of work within the community there. It is clear that we need such a revolution here.

The proceeds of the conference will be available on the Energy Action Ltd web page in the next few weeks. Given that SEAI will be rolling out their community retrofit programmes later this month, there are commercial and social benefits to be gained and created by giving attention to this very important area of work.