13/03/2008

Thousands 'Saved' From Fuel Poverty

The scourge of fuel poverty is being addressed in Northern Ireland with as many as 200,000 households being 'saved' from falling into the category.

Northern Ireland Assembly Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie has today praised the impact of the Government's work in tackling the issue.

Commenting on the release of the 2007 Home Energy Conservation Report by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Minister Ritchie noted that between 2001 and 2006, fuel poverty in Northern Ireland has risen by 7%.

Minister Ritchie said: "We estimate that around 200,000 households have been saved from fuel poverty by our actions.

"In this year alone, my Department has helped make 17,000 families warmer through improving the energy efficiency of their homes. I also secured an additional £2 million during in-year to install solar panels in nearly 700 homes.

"The rising cost of fuel across the world has made this increase inevitable. However, had it not been for the work of my Department and others through programmes such as the Warm Homes Scheme, the increase in levels of fuel poverty would have been much sharper."

The Minister went on to say there would be no room for complacency, as there is an intended increase in the Department’s spending on fuel by a further half a million pounds from the beginning of next month. This would bring their commitment to tackling fuel poverty to £34.5m.

Commenting further on the need to improve sustainability and energy efficiency in the private and social sectors, Ms Ritchie concluded: "My department will continue to examine the potential for extending innovation partnership arrangements with Northern Ireland Electricity and others to speed up the replacement of Economy 7 heating systems, targeting those with particular health needs and piloting renewable energy technologies as a means of tackling rural fuel poverty."

(JM)(BMcC)

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