Dáil Éireann - Volume 394 - 07 December, 1989

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Energy Conservation.

16. Mr. Ryan asked the Minister for Energy the plans; if any, he has to promote energy conservation measures in our buildings; the steps he has taken to promote energy conservation generally; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

20. Mrs. Barnes asked the Minister for Energy the plans, if any, he has to put in place an energy conservation strategy for Ireland; and if will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Molloy: I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 20 together.

Energy conservation has for many years formed an important part of energy policy. Conservation is deemed to be the quickest and most effective way of mitigating the environmental problems associated with energy usage. The Department's conservation programme which was recently modified to take account of the increasing significance of environmental considerations has also targeted specific buildings for attention. These include the Department of Energy and Eolas buildings, hotels and hospitals.

Mr. Ryan: Is the Minister aware that the cost of energy conservation is beyond the reach of the vast majority of ordinary people? Given this, will he accept it was a monumental error for a Government to discontinue grants for insulation of homes at windows, doors, attics, etc.?

[780] Mr. Molloy: The programme was introduced when there was a great, urgent need for it. If the Deputy looks back he will see it was very expensive, and all these measures have a cost factor. The economy required that some action be taken in regard to the massive expenditure on home improvement grants. That factor cannot be ignored when considering this matter. However, I think each person in his own way can achieve savings within his own home if the will and the desire are there to achieve them. It involves prudent management of one's family and household budget. I think it is possible where, including, as I mentioned, Government buildings and so on, to eliminate waste in this area.

Mr. R. Bruton: Will the Minister confirm that Ireland's performance in increasing energy efficiency has lagged behind that of our European partners? Will he also agree that if we continue with the present approach to conservation we will have no chance of achieving the 20 per cent reduction in energy intensity which he as our Minister has put his name to in the EC?

Mr. Molloy: The thermal insulation standards in the published draft building regulations, for which my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, has primary responsibility, were increased in 1984. Although the regulations are still in draft form they are being implemented in practice and that has achieved substantial improvements in the whole area of conservation. In addition the energy phone service operated by Eolas on behalf of my Department was relaunched this autumn with a wider remit to deal with energy and the environment. This is the main means of communicating to the domestic sector energy users.

Mr. R. Bruton: My point is that we have fallen behind the EC and there is no chance, on the policies the Minister is reciting to us here, that we will achieve the target we have agreed to at European level. Will he agree that he must look at introducing a conservation strategy as [781] Minister for Energy and not rely on these disparate elements through the Minister for the Environment and other locations?

Mr. Molloy: I am glad the Deputy referred to disparate elements because there are so many different aspects to this whole area. I am giving thought at present to devising an energy statement. How comprehensive it might be I am not sure yet, but I feel there is need for a clear approach to all these matters. I am considering undertaking that statement to identify all the areas that need to be tackled. Of course, there is a cost involved in all these matters and that determines how fast we can go. A great deal has been done and the building regulations should not be dismissed as insignificant. In time they will help to improve our standing substantially, if one is making international comparisons.

Mr. Garland: Will the Minister agree that energy savings in this area would make a significant contribution to cutting pollution due to acid rain and the greenhouse effect?

Mr. Molloy: Of course, and that is one of the good reasons we should be active in this area.

Mr. Ryan: I was hoping on the basis of the Minister's reply that he would recommend to the Government that the grants be reintroduced. I hope he will look at the possibility under building by-laws that we can incorporate into the building of both private and public buildings the most modern conservation techniques. In this way we could deal with it at the outset rather than having to deal with it by costly means later.

Mr. Molloy: The Deputy refers to building by-laws. I referred to that in my reply.