THE public is to be advised to use washing machines, dryers, cookers and other household appliances outside of peak hours and turn down their heating this winter as part of the Government’s response to the energy crisis.
he Coalition will this week consider a range of measures to reduce energy consumption in the public sector in the coming months, including turning off the lights outside public buildings and turning down heating thermostats inside.
Employers will be asked to heat certain floors where employees are congregated, rather than whole buildings.
While these will form part of the measures to be finalised by Coalition leaders and ministers today – and signed off by the full Cabinet tomorrow – a renewed ‘Reduce Your Use’ campaign is expected to return this autumn and winter.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin today vowed there will be “substantial supports” announced by Government in the coming weeks to help people pay rising energy bills.
Ministers will “go as far” as they possibly can in putting in place supports for families struggling to pay household bills.
Mr Martin denied the Government was putting responsibility on households to foot high bills and said energy usage must be reduced.
He said significant supports will be put in place at Budget time, both as part of the Budget and the cost-of-living package of one-off measures which will be announced alongside it at the end of the month.
This will include supports for the day-to-day running of schools.
“It’s not a question of anybody taking flak or taking responsibility on any one person,” he told reporters in Offaly.
“We all have to work together to reduce demand but the Government will be assisting people and helping people in terms of alleviating the cost pressures on people.”
He said pandemic-like supports will be needed to help families pay spiralling bills this winter.
“We will go as far as we possibly can in terms of what resources we have and also to ensure that we don’t make the inflation situation worse,” he said.
“But there will be substantial supports in the Budget and in the cost-of-living package. It will be a substantial package. It has to be, because the prices are at a level nobody has experienced before.”
The Taoiseach said the rising cost of energy is due “principally” to the war in Ukraine.
The EU is also examining a way to reform the energy market.
His comments come as the Cabinet is set to sign off on advice to save on energy costs, such as using washing machines, dryers and cookers outside of peak hours
A Government source said there will be “renewed emphasis” on this campaign, which will be announced in the next month or so.
It will include asking the public to use cookers, tumble dryers, washing machines, showers and kettles more efficiently and outside the peak hours of 4pm to 7pm where possible.
They will also be asked to turn their thermostats down at home and not to heat empty rooms.
People will also be asked to drive at lower speeds to reduce fuel use and avoid using the car for short journeys, with consideration given to walking, cycling or public transport.
A raft of Government guidance will be issued in a bid to reduce the State’s overall energy consumption this winter, with guidance on retrofitting and insulating homes also likely to feature.
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan is expected to present a memo to Mr Martin and Tanáiste Leo Varadkar.
One measure being examined is keeping the heat at a certain temperature in buildings in the coming months.
One of the concerns we have is that Ireland is too dependent on imported fossil fuels
Public sector workers may also be asked not to spread out across different floors in a bid to only heat certain areas rather than entire buildings.
For months, governments and energy experts have been urging reduce-your-use style campaigns to encourage energy efficiency, but “shorter shower”-type pleas have met with derision.
However, the pleas are now gaining momentum with countries bringing in limits on air conditioning, introducing lights-out policies in public buildings and lowering heating levels in other public spaces.
Something similar is signalled here and while the details are yet to be announced, there is awareness in Government that the public sector has to lead by example.
That still leaves the thorny issue of our biggest power-guzzling sector, however.
A move to curtail data centres would be popular and, while difficult from a policy point of view, some visible action may have to be taken.
It comes as the Climate Change Advisory Council has said short-term measures such as temperatures controls must be implemented now to maintain energy supplies.
Chairperson Marie Donnelly said these measures can save anywhere between 20pc to 30pc of the cost of heating bills this year.
“In the very short term and given the crisis we’re currently in, one of the recommendations that we have made is that people would take measures now to reduce the cost of their heating bill over this winter,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“It’s going to be a difficult winter, fossil-fuel costs unfortunately are escalating every day and we need to take whatever measures we can.
“So, what we’re suggesting is that the short-term measures, which are actually low-cost but high-impact – such as attic insulation, draft proofing, servicing your boiler and temperature controls – be done now and that the paperwork around that be simplified.
“For example, reduction at purchase price rather than having to go through the process of online application payment and then refund of the payment.”
Ms Donnelly said reduced public transport fares should also be extended as this measure can save people money and reduce emissions.
She said cycling, walking, working from home and carpooling can reduce the amount of private car usage and therefore reduce emissions.
“One of the concerns we have is that Ireland is too dependent on imported fossil fuels. Fossil fuels represent 67pc of our emissions, they also are costing us a lot of money at the moment, and we have no control of that,” she said.
“The choice is to use our own energy – our own energy comes from wind and solar. We need to roll out more onshore wind, solar and, indeed, roll out the offshore wind.
“Our first priority is to roll out public transport, Bus Connects and other public transport infrastructure. When these are in place – in other words, when people have a choice – that’s when you look at things like congestion charges.
“The congestion charge is about saving people money [and] it’s also going to save the climate.”