WITH an increasing spend of €2.5 billion a year on energy, Irish households are in the throes of fuel poverty with 13% of disposable cash being spent by low-income consumers on energy bills.
At present, the average Irish household is spending €1,767 on heat and power, which is 70% more than was the case 16 years ago. The rise in oil prices has been the primary factor driving annual bills to a high of €2,100.
Those in the lower income bracket will he hardest hit by rocketing fuel costs — in the 2004/2005 period, low-income families spent 13% of their disposable income on energy while high earners were spending just 1.7%.
The proportion of homes with central heating has increased from 52% in 1987 to a striking 91% in 2005, according to the findings of an in-depth survey by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI).
Irish householders use almost 30% more electricity than their counterparts in the rest of the EU and 20% more than the British.
And the SEI study also found that while energy efficiency increased by 15% from 1995 to 2006, electricity use soared by 62% from 1990 to 2006.
SEI head of industry Brian Motherway praised efforts made to improve energy efficiency in homes but insisted people could be doing more.
“Indicators used to measure energy efficiency also demonstrate that further significant improvements can be made through simple no-cost behavioural changes in the household, leading to more efficient use of energy,” he said.
The SEI report high-lighted sharp increases in electricity and fuel prices from June 2000 to January 2008 in which household electricity doubled and natural gas increased by 87%.
The sharp rise in electricity use is being blamed on power-guzzling electronic goods, such as big-screen televisions, microwave ovens, dishwashers and recessed lighting.
Reasons for the growth in energy use include the increasing number of houses and the fact that many of these are also getting larger.
On the environmental front, the report states that the average Irish dwelling in 2005 emitted 47% more CO2 pollution than its British comparison. These emissions were 104% higher than the EU-27.
The report says the residential sector accounts for almost a quarter of all energy used in the country and is the second largest mass consumer after transport.
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