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Time Running Out To Solve Energy Crisis

Fuel Poverty levels could cover 50 per cent of the population within five years and 75 per cent within a decade if a properly co-ordinated energy policy is not developed, Architect and television presenter Duncan Stewart told the Energy Action conference in Dublin Castle. He also questioned if the €400 million spent each year of fuel allowances was being spent in the right way.

There was no integrated approach between government agencies and departments and the use of coal was particularly wasteful as 80 per cent of the energy generated went up the chimney and it created twice as much pollution, through carbon emissions, as gas. He said that the margin for reducing carbon emissions was extremely limited and buildings would have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden for reducing them further, compared with sectors such as transport and agriculture, yet we still lacked an adequate survey of building stock.

He called for carbon tax to be ring fenced and used for the purpose intended. Some €6 billion a year was spent on oil imports. A similar amount spent on developing alternatives would create 120,000 jobs, as well as helping to address our balance of payments and overall financial problems.

Jeff Colley, editor of Construct Ireland estimated that 39 per cent of Ireland’s entire housing stock had been built since 1997 and was seriously deficient in terms of meeting energy standards, as well as many older buildings. He criticised the government’s decision, just before Christmas, of cutting the grant for external cladding for houses, the most efficient form of insulation, from €4,000 to €21,700.

Joseph Little of Building Life Consultancy told the conference that, “As with so many aspects of our society, the legacy of the boom needs to be challenged at every level. Heating budgets of borrowers are tightening just as heating costs are rising. Problem dwellings require more attention than any others, yet simply increasing the heat delivered into dwellings which have high levels of thermal bridging, air leakage and humidity can actually cause health problems because of increased condensation and mould.

“Ironically solving these problems can allow us to turn the heat down and create healthy conditions. We have the knowledge and ability to solve the inherent problems of these dwellings. We just need focus and will power.”

Inadequate regulatory guidance, inadequate resources and budgets of builders/developers and design teams have all played a part in creating problem dwellings. Too often the occupant, who can of course inadvertently make a significant contribution to the problem, is treated as its sole creator.

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