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Fuel Poverty

Government measures to cut fuel costs should be 'better focused', climate advisory body says

A letter from the Climate Change Advisory Council said the war in Ukraine and energy crisis “further emphasises” the need to cut fossil fuel reliance.

POLICY MEASURES AROUND the tax on petrol and diesel must be “better focused” and ensure climate objectives are taken into account, the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) has said. 

The council’s chair Marie Donnelly has written a letter to government leaders to stress the importance for Ireland to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to avoid volatile energy prices and achieve climate requirements. 

There has been a heightened focus on reliance of fossil fuels since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago, causing energy and fuel prices to soar across the globe. 

Ireland must slash its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

The letter from the independent advisory body said it understands the emergency measure of cutting excise duty but recommended that policy measures around this are “better focused”. 

It added that the council is “concerned that short-term measures taken to mitigate price shocks and ensure resilience of energy supplies could be taken without regard to climate objectives”. 

“This crisis further emphasises the urgency with which we need to reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels,” the letter said. 

This will have the benefit of shielding consumers from volatile energy prices, increasing our security of energy supply and supporting the achievement of our climate objective.

The government agreed a cut in excise on petrol and diesel last month to ease soaring costs for people buying fuel. 

“Global instability in energy markets may be enduring, therefore responses need to take a long-term perspective and focus on those already in fuel poverty,” the CCAC letter said. 

The council said it supports the recent bonus means-tested fuel allowance payments to households. 

“The ESRI has found that high income households account for most of the cost to
the exchequer of recent measures,” the letter said. 

“Subsequent measures should, instead, be better targeted to those in challenging circumstances, fuel poverty and with low incomes.”

The council said that now more than ever, ensuring energy supply through renewable means is a “no regrets policy”. 

“Strong political, all of government support is urgently required to support the delivery of the renewable ambition and ensure that new renewable generation can become operational as soon as possible.” 

More renewable energy

Lengthy and delayed planning timelines are standing in the way of developing critical grid infrastructure and renewable projects, the council said. 

It said this must be urgently addressed. 

On the carbon tax, the council said it supports current government plans including the tax price increase next month. 

“The certainty of the carbon tax increments is key to informing investment decisions and meeting decarbonisation targets,” the letter said.

“The most recent IPCC working group report published last week reaffirms the effectiveness of economic instruments such as the carbon tax as part of a suite of measures.”

This UN report outlined that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 40% to 70% by 2050 if the right policies, infrastructure and technology are in place. 

Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the working group behind another recent IPCC report said: “Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.” 

Small-scale renewable energy infrastructure such as solar can be installed relatively quickly, the council said. 

The council added that it “appreciates” the government approving the micro-generation support scheme for solar energy but said tariffs are “still not widely available to customers”. 

“The government has so far failed to produce updated planning regulations to
facilitate expedited roll out of solar installations on schools, homes and businesses,” the council said. 

Smart meters and ways for people to access usage data for smart meters should be progressed “as a matter of urgency, the CCAC said, to help people save energy. 

The council also said it supports measures to encourage more update of time-of-use tariffs for electricity customers to incentivise a change in electricity usage patterns and move demand away from peak times. 

The letter also welcomed the recently launched national retrofitting scheme but said current policies and grant criteria can “prevent support” for deploying decarbonisation solutions. 

To mitigate rising fuel costs, the council said further measures to increase public transport use such as the recent reductions in some public transport fares are welcome. 

The CCAC also expressed its concern that the current timelines for delivering key measures of the Climate Action Plan are “too long” and the procedures to facilitate their delivery aren’t progressing fast enough. 

“An accelerated and strategic approach to decarbonising the electricity sector and escalating the clean energy transition in heating and transport will reduce our fossil fuel dependence while also helping to achieve climate targets,” the letter said. 

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