Dáil Éireann - Volume 496 - 10 November, 1998

Written Answers. - Fuel Provisions.

70. Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Public Enterprise if her attention has been drawn to the fact that many people experience fuel poverty which manifests as coldness in people's houses, the inability to afford sufficient fuel, the spending of disproportionate amounts of weekly income on fuel and energy, lack of insulation, inefficient heating methods and so on; the proposals, if any, her Department has to address the issue of fuel poverty in the community; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19978/98]

Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise (Mr. Jacob): I am aware, as are many Members of the House, of the difficult situation in which many people referred to in the Deputy's question find themselves.

The Deputy has raised a wide range of issues in his question, affecting a number of areas, some of which are outside my area of responsibility. The Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs administers a national fuel scheme to assist low income households and the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has responsibility for insulation and other energy efficiency measures contained in building regulations.

[621] In relation to my own Department and the specific issue of fuel poverty, grant aid has been provided to the Energy Action organisation since its foundation in 1988 to combat the problem of fuel poverty. It also receives funding from a number of other public and private sources for its invaluable work. The objectives of the organisation are to combat cold in the homes of the elderly and those on low incomes thereby preventing unnecessary cold related illness and death; create ecologically sound work opportunities for the unemployed; educate the public on the need for energy conservation; and increase energy efficiency in the homes of the elderly and needy thereby reducing their fuel costs and atmospheric pollution.

The services it provides include attic insulation, draught proofing and the supply and fitting of both lagging jackets and smoke alarms to the needy and the elderly, free of charge. To date, Energy Action has insulated over 12,000 homes free of charge.

Through Energy Action, approximately 360 long-term unemployed people have been trained to certification standard in home insulation and the delivery of energy advice to householders. The jobs placement rate of over 60 per cent is also extremely high.

In 1998, a grant of £110,000 is being provided through the Irish Energy Centre to Energy Action. This will assist in the provision of: draft proofing for 1,580 homes, attic insulation for 395 homes, lagging jackets for 675 homes and energy efficient lighting for 790 homes.

In addition, my Department will also be providing £100,000 to Energy Action for the purchase of its own premises.