Wednesday, 23 May 2012

No New Deal for people in fuel poverty

Green MLA Steven Agnew has expressed disappointment that £12m which had been set aside for the Green New Deal will now be used only for a boiler upgrade scheme for Housing Executive homes.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland made the announcement in the Assembly today when asked to outline the results of the economic appraisal carried out in relation to the £12m budget allocated for the Green New Deal.

“This is not the best use of the money earmarked for investment in the Green New Deal,” Mr Agnew said.

“The Green New Deal attracted all party support because it had the potential to tackle the triple crunch of unemployment, rising energy prices and climate change.

“It was designed to work as full package not in a piecemeal way which is simply tinkering around the edges as it also needs to incorporate retro fitting of insulation.

“18 months after the Executive first promised this money, the Minister has now chosen to support the Housing Executive’s bid and I believe that this is a wasted opportunity.

“The Green New Deal had provided the opportunity to leverage around £70 million of private investment over the next three years.

“By putting the scheme exclusively in the hands of the Housing Executive, this won’t happen now.

“I am of course glad to see any homes in Northern Ireland improve their energy efficiency as we need to urgently  tackle fuel poverty but the initial vision for Green New Deal was to provide a one-stop-shop for households offering a free energy assessment, a competitively tendered installation service and a government grant finance package.

“By awarding the £12m over the next four years to the Housing Executive, the money for the Green New Deal will be kept within one specific housing sector and denies individuals and families who live in privately-rented accommodation or own their homes the opportunity to save around £350 per year on their fuel bills.

“As this scheme is now only going to update old Housing Executive oil boilers and replace them with gas boilers, it further locks Northern Ireland into fossil fuels dependency rather than paving the way for a renewable energy future across the wider housing stock with improved thermal inefficiency through better insulation.”

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