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Energy Crisis

Use of street Christmas lights being considered by local councils amidst energy crisis, says Ryan

The energy minister said there’s no guarantees that power blackouts can be avoided this winter.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 6th 2022, 10:22 PM

LOCAL AUTHORITIES ARE looking at the issue of Christmas lights on streets this winter amidst the growing energy crisis, Energy Minister Eamon Ryan has said. 

Speaking ahead of a coalition leaders meeting this evening, the minister said he will bring a memo to Cabinet tomorrow on the management of energy consumption by the public sector, households and businesses. 

He told reporters today that it will “start with the public sector” by setting temperature limits and consolidating buildings.

When asked about this year’s Christmas lights for cities, towns and villages across the country, the minister said it is something the Government will “come back to” later in the year.

He added: “I think local authorities are starting to look at that, they’re starting to consider every measure, but we’re not being prescriptive at that level yet.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time tonight, Ryan said he could not guarantee that power blackouts can be avoided this winter.

Ryan said there are a number of different factors which will determine energy supply, including the performance of an older fossil fuel plant that wasn’t available when needed in recent years.

“I think the blackouts will depend, more than anything else, on the availability of that fossil fuel plant, where we’ve had difficulties. But one of the ways to avoid that is being clever in reducing our use. And that will, not only, give us security benefits, it will also help cut the bills,” Ryan said.

I think the blackouts will depend, more than anything else on the availability of that fossil fuel plant, where we’ve had difficulties. But one of the ways to avoid that is being clever in reducing our use. And that will, not only we have us security benefits, it will also help cut the bills.

Government sources said they would be very reluctant to give advice on such a measure as curtailing Christmas lights, stating that there will be questions about “how much of this is virtue signalling”, reiterating that it is unlikely Ireland will experience blackouts or brownouts this winter. 

Speaking further about tomorrow’s Cabinet tomorrow, Ryan said it is only really the start to addressing a whole range of actions.

“It will be one of a series of memos to manage what’s going to be a very difficult situation in energy. And I think, yes, we just start by example, in the public sector, to start in our own use of energy in the public sector, particularly our buildings,” he said. 

The Government’s Reduce Your Use campaign has been clear in how householders can reduce their use of power in a whole variety of different ways, he said. 

“That will be strengthened and much more widely deployed,” he said, adding that it will be about helping businesses as well as households. 

However, he said the message will also be about “maintaining your comfort”. 

“The important message going out to our households this winter is stay warm,” he said, adding that householders will be asked to be “clever” and not “wasteful” with their energy usage.  

When asked about heating in schools and libraries and whether they can expect curtailments, the minister said that in a crisis, places like libraries play a very critical role, with many people using them as social environments and places to stay warm. 

“When it comes to libraries, don’t shut facilities that actually provide a really important social function in the middle of difficult times,” he said.

“I think we’re going to have to look at every single building and every single institution to look at their energy bills and look at how they use energy, because they’re going to be hit with higher gas and oil bills if that’s their heating system,” said Ryan.

However, he said “children benefit from being in school… we need our children in school”. 

Ryan will meet with other European Union ministers for an emergency meeting on Friday.

The meeting could result in “really significant steps” to help address the energy crisis, he told reporters today. 

“I’m hopeful we can get an agreement on Friday and very quickly the [European] Commission will then introduce measures that allow us to try and cushion some of the blow of those higher bills,” he said. 

Some ideas on the table are revenue skimming of energy companies as well as the decoupling of the price of gas from the price of electricity. 

Supports

Speaking in Offaly today, Taoiseach Micheal Martin has pledged to provide “substantial” supports as the public faces soaring energy prices.

Martin said that energy prices have risen to levels that were not expected, blaming Putin’s war in Ukraine for creating the energy and food crisis.

The cost-of-living package will be announced alongside the Budget at the end of the month.

Martin said the country has to work together to reduce energy demand.

He would not be drawn on whether the Government will consider capping energy prices.

“The Government will be assisting people and will be helping people in terms of alleviating cost pressures on people, and we will do that through supports like we did last year,” he added.

“This year we will have a cost-of-living package parallel with the Budget, which will be once-off in terms of its application for this year which will help people, households, particularly families.

“Then the Budget itself will also to deal with, as best it can, issues like childcare and education and so on.

“Schools will need supports to deal with the cost of energy in schools. Clearly, government will help in all of that.

“We will go as far as we possibly can, in terms of resources we have and ensure we don’t make the inflation situation worse.”

He said the cost-of-living budget package will contain “substantial supports”.

“It will be a substantial package as it has to be because the price levels are at a level that no-one has experienced before, not even in the 1970s,” he added.

“It’s principally because of the decision by (Vladimir) Putin to weaponise energy and the war in Ukraine is having an impact. This is the first time since World War Two that we have had a major war of this kind on the continent of Europe.

“It has created the worse humanitarian crisis since World War Two, it’s created an energy crisis and a food crisis and that is the reality of a horrible and brutal war, that’s why Europe has united against that war.”

Martin said the government is doing all it can within its resources to incentivise the the retrofitting of homes.

He claimed there has been a 300% increase in applications for retrofit grants.

“Many companies involved in retrofitting have witnessed a very strong demand in growth,” he added.

With reporting by Press Association

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