Warning on rapid rise in fuel poverty

Wed, Feb 8, 2012, 00:00

HALF THE population will be living in fuel poverty within five years if present trends continue, the architect and television presenter Duncan Stewart has claimed.

Mr Stewart told a conference yesterday the problem was “getting out of control”, and said there was no co-ordination between Government departments on how to manage the €400 million winter fuel allowance.

He estimated that half the population would be in fuel poverty within five years and 75 per cent within a decade unless steps were taken towards drawing up a co-ordinated energy policy.

Fuel poverty is defined as a household spending more than 10 per cent of disposable income on heating.

Mr Stewart told the second day of the conference, organised by the charity Energy Action, that €4 billion that is due to be allocated over the next decade on the winter fuel allowance will be largely spent on imported fossil fuels such as coal and oil when much of it could be better spent on upgrading homes to ensure greater fuel efficiency.

He recommended that carbon tax be ringfenced to “solve the problems that we have created” by upgrading housing stock with inadequate energy efficiency while also creating employment.

He also called for an inventory of the State’s housing stock, to identify where the problems of fuel poverty are most apparent.

Northern Ireland’s fuel poverty strategy co-ordinator Jacqui Frazer told the conference that oil stamp saving schemes had made a significant impact on fuel poverty in Northern Ireland, where 70 per cent of households use heating oil.

She said many poorer households struggled to find the one-off payment needed for a big oil fill.

Since 2005 in the North, stamps worth £5 are sold from shops and other outlets, collected on a card and used as full or part payment for oil.