Give ‘wasted’ electricity to those struggling to heat their homes – Naughten

Denis Naughten TD, Cathaoirleach of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, Community & Rural Development and the Islands, launching the Committee’s fuel poverty report.

The State should enhance smart meters to provide free electricity at night to those in receipt of the fuel allowance instead of letting it go to waste, according to Denis Naughten TD, who was highlighting a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community & Rural Development, and the Islands.

Deputy Naughten, who is Chair of the Committee, explained, “With energy costs surging, an ESRI study in 2022 indicated that approximately 29% of households are now classified as energy-poor, significantly impacting low-income families and rural communities.

“The Committee has recommended that the Government body, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), commission a software tool to facilitate the provision of free electricity units to households at risk of energy poverty via the smart meter. This would be when the wind is blowing but there is no demand for the electricity from the wind turbines. In 2023 there were 115 nights that the electricity generated by wind turbines across the country was unused because there was a lack of demand across the electricity network”.

Denis Naughten also pointed out the difficulties with retrofitting. He said, “The Committee was critical of the SEAI, which administers the national retrofitting scheme, for its treatment of people in fuel poverty who are left for up to 14 months after applying only to be told that the SEAI is refusing to do any work because their home is too hard to retrofit.

“The Committee is strongly of the view that in such circumstances a shallow scheme of works which improve the energy efficiency of a home must be completed in all circumstances, ensuring that no one in fuel poverty is abandoned by the State agency”.

Key recommendations in this pivotal report highlight the alarming rise in energy poverty across Ireland include increasing welfare payments, expanding fuel allowances and implementing lump-sum payments such as the household electricity credit.

Additionally, there is a strong emphasis on improving access to home retrofitting and renewable energy for low-income households. These measures aim to provide immediate relief while fostering long-term energy efficiency and sustainability.