energy crisis | 

Government advise turning down heating and using washing machines and cookers outside peak hours

The Coalition will this week consider a range of measures to reduce energy consumption in the public sector in the coming months

Domestic radiator room thermostat© PA

Hugh O'Connell, Caroline O'Doherty and Seoirse

The public are 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.

The 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 on Wednesday – a renewed ‘Reduce Your Use’ campaign is expected to return this autumn and winter.

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 rooms in their homes that are not being used.

People will also be asked drive at lower speeds to reduce fuel use and avoid using the car for short journeys, consider 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 Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tanáiste Leo Varadkar.

One measure being examined is keeping the heat at a certain temperature in buildings in the coming months.

Public sector workers may also be asked not to spread out across different floors in a bid to 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 to 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. And when these are in place so 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, it’s also going to save the climate of course.”

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