In contrast to the measures announced by the UK government this week, the Irish prime minister (known as the Taoiseach) defended plans to promote energy efficiency and demand restraint including taking shorter showers and driving less, as part of an overall response to spiralling cost of living pressures. Mark Hilliard and Vivienne Clarke discuss latest developments in an article on the Irish Times website.
Taoiseach defends energy efficiency measures as part of cost of living response
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has defended plans to promote energy efficiency including taking shorter showers and driving less, as part of an overall response to spiralling cost of living pressures.
He also said Europe-wide measures will be needed to tackle soaring inflation which is placing pressure on households, noting the Government cannot deal with the issue on its own.
Speaking on Monday after the announcement of plans by multinational firm Workday to create 1,000 jobs in Dublin, Mr Martin said the Government was not contemplating a mini-Budget to respond to inflation, which is forecast to rise to 8.5 per cent or higher in the coming months.
Mr Martin also defended Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan’s plans to promote energy efficiency measures to cut household costs.
The Irish Times reported on Monday that people will be encouraged to take shorter showers and cut out one car journey a week to bring down their energy costs under plans being developed by Green Party leader Mr Ryan.
Mr Martin said: “Energy efficiency makes sense anytime of the year crisis or no crisis and let’s not be so dismissive of that.”
According to the Taoiseach, issues related to the pandemic had stoked inflationary pressures which the war in Ukraine was exacerbating.
He said the danger was “chasing inflation” with new measures risked fuelling it.
“We will need measures at a European macro-level to deal with inflation also. The Irish Government on its own will not be able to deal with it in its entirety.”
There is unease among some in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael about planned carbon tax increases on home heating oil and other fuels due to start next month.
The increases will add around €1.50 a month to the cost of home heating oil and €1.40 to a monthly gas bill.
Asked if the increase was poorly timed, Mr Martin replied that the impact of the changes was “not as significant as the political debate around it would suggest”.
“The issue is of a far greater scale than the carbon tax issue which was put into legislation to meet an existential crisis of our time, climate change.”
Earlier, Mr Ryan said energy prices looked set to remain unpredictable over the coming months and the Government was unable to simply “fix” the challenge of rising costs for domestic consumers.
Mr Ryan is due to bring a new package of measures to Government this week as moves are under way to assist households with spiralling energy and cost of living expenses.
Mr Ryan said the priority was to assist those most at risk of fuel poverty, while there will be further universal measures such as reducing the Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy on energy bills to zero.
“We’re going to have to do a lot more because we don’t know the duration of this war . . the international markets are for gas and oil and coal are causing this problem. And we can’t completely fix that,” he said.
Mr Ryan said there would be a co-ordinated focus on energy efficiency throughout Europe and that the traditional reliance on Russian fossil fuels has brought renewed emphasis on the importance for Ireland to have its own resources; including wind, solar and biomass.
He said the new measures to be introduced will “target very specifically at helping particular homes, others very much changing the planning or regulatory or market system, helping people who are in debt difficulty, making sure that we are doing all the things that gets them out of difficulty.”
Grants of up to 80 per cent for between 500,000 to 700,000 homes for better insulation could mean savings of up to 25 per cent in bills and there needed to be a focus on that urgently, he said.
The unpredictability of the energy prices was emphasised by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who said the Government was unable to “make things normal”.
At the core of the Government’s efforts will be measures to help people pay their bills and to provide assistance “in difficult times,” he said.
Separately, Mr Martin said that the Ireland has bounced back well from the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting how the Government had set a target of having 2.5 million people in the workforce and “we’re well ahead of that target now”.
He said “knee-jerk action that would jeopardise that economic recovery” must be avoided.