Insulating 100,000 homes before winter, and compelling energy firms to put existing customers onto the lowest tariff, are some of the measures needed to cut bills, save energy, and reduce pollution.
That is according to environmental organization Friends of the Earth (FoE) Ireland, which has released a five-point plan to address the burgeoning energy crisis affecting homes across the country.
The five-point plan echoes a similar idea launched by the UN chief Antonio Guterres at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) state of the climate annual report in recent days, which found that key climate crisis indicators were going in the wrong direction.
The UN’s five-point plan is similar in to the FoE Ireland plan, only on a global scale, addressing the breaking of fossil fuel dependence and a swifter transition to renewable energy.
Mr Guterres said the transition to renewable energy should be the “low-hanging fruit” of climate action.
He also railed against fossil fuel subsidies, which Irish environmental campaigners have blasted for years as exacerbating the climate crisis.
Each year, governments around the world pour around half a trillion dollars into artificially lowering the price of fossil fuels — more than triple the subsidies given to renewables, Mr Gutteres said.
“While people suffer from high prices at the pump, the oil and gas industry is raking in billions from a distorted market. This scandal must stop”, Mr Guterres said.
Total energy subsidies in the EU came to €176bn in 2019, according to a European Commission report last year.
Energy subsidies are described as measures taken to assist organizations, usually by governments. Fossil fuel subsidies have already increased in 11 member states since 2015, the commission said.
For Ireland, FoE’s five-point plan also called for an “end our dependence on dirty, pricey, unreliable fossil fuels as fast as possible”.
It said that the Government should “insulate 100,000 homes before next winter, prioritizing those at risk of energy poverty”.
Such a measure is unlikely, with strong anecdotal evidence from homeowners all across the country that booking tradespeople to do jobs is proving very difficult due to a number of factors, chiefly a dearth of availability.
FoE said energy firms should be made to put existing customers on the lowest tariff, similar to measures taken by the British regulator Ofgem in recent weeks.
From April 22, Ofgem measures require domestic suppliers to make all their tariffs available to new and existing customers, saying it is “a short-term intervention to address risks to consumers from ongoing wholesale market volatility”.
FoE energy policy analyst Clare O’Connor, said the Government must act now to prevent Irish households from living in dangerously cold homes next winter.
“The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) must partner with expert NGOs now to step up the roll-out of insulation immediately, starting with those most at-risk of energy poverty,” Ms O’Connor said.
“Rental properties need to be explicitly targeted by Government retrofitting schemes to ensure tenants who are already feeling the impacts of the housing crisis are not left carrying the additional burden of the energy crisis.”