Energy Poverty in IrelandAccording to The Irish Times, energy poverty is “spending more than a tenth of [ones] income on energy.” In Ireland, 29% of households, up from 13% in 2015, meet this “threshold for energy poverty.” This widespread energy poverty in Ireland has resulted from the sudden surges in gas and electricity prices which are partially due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Problem

On average, Irish households are spending €21 more weekly on energy instead of other essential goods. To make matters worse, if motor fuels are included, families are spending €38 more weekly than before the recent inflation, according to The Irish Times.

According to research by the Irish Houses of the Oireachtas, “it is well established that certain groups are more vulnerable to energy poverty and its consequences.” Research by the House discussed that not only do poorer households have limited capacity to support their energy needs due to economic restraints, but they also frequently have increased energy costs. Many of the poorer households in Ireland live in less energy-efficient accommodation, such as mobile homes and trailers, which leads to higher energy costs.

The groups suffering from increased energy costs the most are the Irish Traveller and Roma communities residing in Ireland. These communities frequently face “financial exclusion” and energy-inefficient accommodation. In fact, 40% of Travellers and Romas in Ireland significantly struggle to make ends meet, and 13% live in accommodations in bad condition. “These factors result in significant health and safety risks for Traveller families,” says research by the House.

Specifically, energy poverty affects individuals’ health, social inclusion and housing tenure. Additionally, homes often use cheaper alternatives, such as coal, to meet their energy needs, which has serious effects on air quality and climate change. Thus, it is in everyone’s best interest to reduce energy poverty and ensure all households can safely meet their energy needs.

Possible Solutions

Social Justice Ireland, a think tank and justice advocacy organization, stated that, in theory, the solution to both the financial and environmental costs is as simple as making homes more energy-efficient. This would reduce the carbon emission of individual homes and require less fuel, in return reducing cost. In order to do so, the organization suggests a “state-led retrofitting scheme” to improve the condition of poorer quality homes.

In research by the House, it endorsed the need for grants and programs in order to retrofit homes. However, it also suggested the need for “income supports in the form of transfer payments” and subsidizing energy in order to prevent more homes from falling below the threshold for energy poverty.

National Efforts

Currently, the Irish government aims to alleviate the effects of spiking energy prices by cutting indirect taxes on fuel, such as the carbon tax. However, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has criticized the government’s efforts, as “most of the aggregate gains would go to the highest-income 40% of households while less than a third would go to the lowest-income 40%,” The Irish Times reports. Alternatively, the think tank suggested income supports, such as welfare payments, similar to the recommendation by the Irish Houses of the Oireachtas.

Unfortunately, according to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, “the Government might already be at the limit” of what it can do, due to the constantly rising levels of energy poverty in Ireland.

Local Actions and NGO Efforts

Considering the government’s limited ability to act, local and NGO actions are even more valuable in alleviating and preventing energy poverty than usual.

Locally, according to a report by the European Commission, the Deep Retrofit Transforms Wexford Sheltered Housing project has helped retrofit 12 one-bedroom homes, including social housing, in Wexford, Ireland. The projects will not only have serious economic and environmental benefits but will also benefit the homeowners’ health and wellbeing.

Furthermore, Energy Action, established in 1988, fights to address energy, specifically fuel poverty in Dublin, Ireland. The NGO, which was “Ireland’s first community-based energy project,” provides free insulation in the homes of the disadvantaged, such as the elderly and poor. Since its founding, Energy Action has insulated 35,000 homes. The remarkable NGO has also helped tackle poverty in Ireland by employing and training the formerly long-time unemployed, “providing them with sustainable and ecologically sound employment opportunities.”

Although Ireland lacks a national program to tackle energy poverty, Energy Action supports multiple “community-based organizations ” fighting energy poverty throughout the country to get started with their own projects.

– Lena Maassen
Photo: Flickr

dumsorIf you were to ask any Ghanaian, whether local or in the diaspora, what Ghana’s biggest issue is, the response would undoubtedly be dumsor, pronounced “doom-sore.” This term refers to the continuous and unpredictable electric power outages in the country.

Though dumsor has been a problem for decades, it was not until 2012 that this issue worsened. Ghana now faces regular power outages which can last for about 12 hours per day.

The reasons for the outages are unclear. It has often been claimed that part of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) was cut by a ship’s anchor, which consequently halted the transmission of gas for electricity production. Other theories claim that the Akosombo Bui and Kpong Dam are not functioning properly because of low water causing mechanical problems with power plants. But whatever the cause, this crisis has yet to be solved.

In 2013, the World Bank Enterprise Survey on African countries, including Ghana and Nigeria, named “the ongoing rampant poor electricity supply as one of the biggest barriers to growth of the country’s economy and hindrance to many multinational investors.”

The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) was reported to have lost $100,000 in profits in 24 hours due to continuous power outages at the Tema Harbour site. Other manufacturing companies such as breweries, bakeries and clothing companies, businesses such as restaurants, salons and corporate offices, as well as important locations such as hospitals, airports and schools, are also being adversely affected.

Every working person in the country needs electricity. For the few who have generators, life is a bit more bearable. But a consequence that arises from this alternative is not only the noise that is created by these generators but the cost to maintain these devices. For those who can only afford candles, the use of this alternative can lead to fires.

The Ghanaian government, as well as the Volta River Authorities (VRA), Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCO), the Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCO) and Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) have been looked to for answers. Although the president has made several promises, including a notable one that dumsor would be over by Christmas 2015, the problem still persists.

At this point, after several denials and broken promises by the Ghanaian government, it has been realized by most that the current energy crisis is not a result of inadequate installed capacity but rather a lack of financial resources to utilize the installed capacity. Ghana already owes billions of dollars in debt to electricity companies within and outside Ghana.

After four years, despite public marches, protests by local celebrities, the launch of a dumsor app and all of the promises by the government, no real progress has been made so far. Addressing this issue will tremendously help the country economically and contribute to its development.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: My Joy Online, Modern Ghana, AllAfrica