Families get grants to move away from fossil fuel usage
The Government is to introduce a national ban on smoky coal and will no longer provide grants to upgrade oil and gas boilers.
Policies to improve air quality and encourage a shift away from fossil fuels have been outlined by Environment and Climate Change Minister Denis Naughten, who said they would have a "significant impact" on public health and help reduce climate-change emissions.
The Government plans to introduce a €3,500 grant towards the cost of installing a heat pump in homes, which uses air to heat the house and cool it during the summer. They cost between €8,000 and €9,000 and the grant will be available from April next year.
Under the changes, a grant worth around €100 to upgrade oil and gas boilers will be scrapped. Instead, the grant to install heating controls will be increased to €700 and there are also increases to fund external wall insulation, which rise from €4,500 to €6,000 for a detached house and from €3,400 to €4,500 for a semi-detached or end-of-terrace home.
Sources said the move demonstrated that the Government was moving away from supporting fossil-fuel technologies, adding that people would continue to be free to heat their home with oil or gas, but would not be grant-aided to upgrade their boilers.
Heat pumps can result in home-heating bills dramatically falling. The Heat Pump Association of Ireland says that using oil to heat a home and provide hot water costs around €2,700 a year, compared with almost €1,100 for a heat pump. They also result in substantial emissions savings.
"It is time to start the transition away from using fossil fuels to heat our homes," Mr Naughten said. "Heating controls are a great way to control a household's energy usage, particularly when combined with deeper measures, like external wall insulation."
Other changes include a guaranteed commitment to fund energy upgrades for community projects, such as GAA clubs, assuming they stack up financially and meet certain criteria. To date, funding has been allocated through a competitive process each year but this system will be scrapped.
Families in receipt of the domiciliary care allowance can also benefit from State-funded heating upgrades and the Government also plans to introduce a turf-cutting compensation scheme on bogs in counties Galway, Offaly, Longford, Westmeath and Roscommon.
A ban on smoky coal, already in place in Dublin and 25 urban areas, will be extended nationally from September next year, with a 12-month transition period to allow for existing stocks to be depleted.
"The belief is we will see hundreds of lives saved as a direct result of a nationwide ban on smoky coal," Mr Naughten said. Currently, four deaths a day are associated with poor air quality.
Biomass alternatives burn for longer at a higher temperature. While they are "slightly more expensive", there was "similar value" in the long run, he added.