Could your house be costing you a fortune? New research on household energy costs conducted by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice (VPSJ) for the SVP is applicable to many households in the State. The report Minimum Household Energy Need concludes that improving the energy efficiency of homes could halve the energy costs of your home. That’s the theory, but what are the numbers
Take a pensioner living alone in a mid-terrace house with oil central heating. By improving the energy efficiency of the home from a BER rating of G to B the energy costs would reduce from €4350 to €1826, a saving of €2500. Or a family of four in a similar house but with gas fired central heating, a potential saving of €2000 down from €4000. A one parent family with one child in an apartment, a saving of €2,200 bring their energy bills to €1600.
These may be amongst the conclusions of the research, but they were not the starting point. SVP first asked the VPSJ to examine the costs of energy. They found that energy prices on average increased by 25% between 2009 – 2014. SVP asked what has happened to Government energy allowances. The VPSJ found that the value of the fuel allowance was cut in 2009 by €120 and the Household Benefits Package was reduced by €70. Basically, since 2009, as energy prices increased the Government aid to assist households has reduced.
SVP then asked the VPSJ to examine household scenarios who would typically receive SVP assistance: one parent families, families with children and older people living alone. We asked the VPSJ to examine the energy costs of such households in homes with different BER ratings, with different fuel types and in urban and rural contexts. Lastly we asked the VPSJ to examine if improvements in energy efficiency will remove people from energy poverty.
Energy poverty is defined as spending more than 10% of your net income on household energy need. Spending more than 15% or 20% of that income drives you into severe or extreme energy poverty. As we have seen measures to improve energy efficiency could dramatically result in lower bills and consequently reducing the occurrence and depth of energy poverty, but how did households assisted by the SVP fare?
The VPSJ research shows that despite the benefits of living in a BER B rated home all the households who are dependent on a social welfare income remain in or on the threshold of energy poverty. Households with a person in full-time employment fare better. While the good news is the potential of energy efficiency and retro-fitting schemes the real debate remains about income adequacy. As the report’s authors put it:
“A household [in energy poverty] will have to choose to do without essential items and live below a socially acceptable minimum level, these choices may mean not maintaining adequate warmth, doing with inadequate food, and not participating fully in normal social activities”.
If this research makes you think twice about your own home’s energy efficiency that’s good. If it makes us all realise that energy efficiency alone will not resolve the issue of energy poverty, well that’s what we in the SVP would call a result.