Dáil Question on Energy Poverty

Dáil Question on Energy Poverty

Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Deputy Naughten is Chair of the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands. Excellent work is being done by that committee in the area of energy poverty. I have spoken strongly about the fact that we have responded in the short term and cash was the way to do that in the short term. We have long-term plans for the retrofitting of housing stock, which is absolutely where we should be headed in the longer term, but we need to do something in the medium term to reach those people the energy transition will otherwise leave behind.

Deputy Naughten outlined a number of ideas. I absolutely believe that smart meters should be part of what we are doing. There is a role for the regulator in helping people interpret the relevant data, particularly those who are at risk of fuel poverty. EnergyCloud can be part of the solution. I would love to see solar panels installed on every social home across Ireland – if that is possible – in order that people can feel the good of that energy transition in the medium term and are not just waiting for the long term.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív

I want to join with my colleagues. We are all on the same committee. There are two very simple things. There is energy out there. However, we are turning off the wind turbines because we think there is nobody to use it. There is plenty of energy available. There are people who need hot water or who maybe could use that energy to do other things in the evening. Let us use technology to people’s benefit.

The second point is one I do not understand. It will take years to refurbish every local authority house. I cannot understand why in the interim every local authority house is not getting solar panels as a separate parallel scheme. One does not interfere with the other. We need to be ruthlessly practical and we have to stop people coming up with all sorts of reasons not to do things. In this country, we have to adopt the motto of “Do it”. If there are issues to be resolved then resolve them and do not use them as barriers.

Deputy Eamon Ryan

I agree with all three Deputies. There is huge potential for us in the use of the smart metering system to improve both energy savings and the use of wind power and, in particular, solar power. I also agree that the application or the widespread deployment of solar will be a major part of the energy future, even in cloudy Ireland. I absolutely agree that all three of those initiatives are something we should advance at full speed and in every way we can.

Deputy Naughten referred to the SEAI, which has a role, but I also believe that the regulator has the key role. It has taken us time to get the scale of smart metering we now have but we are within sight to having universal access to smart metering. This then makes it much easier for us to be able to deploy them in a way that is much more effective and to increase the use of them for variable charging and other mechanisms that will see their real benefit coming through. I look forward to any recommendations from the committee in that regard. From my perspective that is exactly the direction we need to go. The characteristics of this new energy system is a balancing system where we really ramp up demand when the volume of renewable power is there and we manage it efficiently when it is not. I agree 100% with what the three Deputies said.