Cross-departmental strategy needed to tackle fuel poverty

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew is calling for a cross-departmental strategy to tackle fuel poverty through full implementation of the Green New Deal.

Advocating a spend to save strategy, the Green Party leader has warned the Executive that without energy efficiency measures Winter Fuel Payments will see money literally going up in smoke.

Mr Agnew said: “The measures outlined in the Green New Deal, such as retro-fitting insulation, must be adopted now if we are going to tackle fuel poverty seriously.

“It requires investment and inter-departmental co-operation but it will save the economy money and increase health and wellbeing.

“Implementation of the Green New Deal would not only help increase energy efficiency thus reducing consumption and costs but, from a wider economic perspective, it would create much needed jobs.

“While we support the call to keep the Winter Fuel Payment at its current level, we recognise that as energy costs continue to spiral it will actually be worth much less this winter than last year. In real terms the same payment this year would be worth a mere £140 due to inflation in the cost of energy.

“Fuel poverty in Northern Ireland continues to increase despite numerous strategies designed to eradicate the problem.

“In Northern Ireland we are already paying on average £900 per year more for fuel than our UK counterparts and yet we are getting the same Winter Fuel Payment grant.  This is directly linked to our reliance on fossil fuels and it must be noted that former Finance Minister Peter Robinson chose not to introduce a minimum renewable energy requirement during his tenure and this has kept us locked into a cycle of fuel poverty due to our over-dependence on oil and gas where prices are dictated by the global market.

“If we are serious about tackling fuel poverty, we must reduce our consumption and invest in renewable technology which all afford us greater fuel security and lower energy prices in the future.

“This needs a cross-department strategy from DRD, DHSSPS, DETI and DFP to tackle the root causes of fuel poverty so that money could be saved and invested back into frontline services such as health care.”

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