Thursday, September 08, 2011

7pm Bedtime Fuel Poverty in Ireland


 Bed at 7pm to save fuel
Recent SVP Report 

The Irish charity SVP has issued a report which highlights the tragedy which haunts many elderly in Ireland. Loneliness is the single greatest issue outlined, it is something which does not need money to rectify.

Another issue it again raises is "Fuel Poverty". The SVP report shows that many elderly people have to go to bed at 7pm to save on fuel costs.

Bord na Mona and Fuel Poverty

I recently raised the issue of fuel costs for the elderly with a senior manager at Bord na Mona, the Irish Semi-State body which controls most of the solid fuel sales in the country. The problems lie in the fact that many elderly people rely entirely on open fires or stoves for heat. The price of coal and other fuels varies a great deal throughout the country but ultimately is controlled by the near monopoly situation which is Bord na Mona.

Bord na Mona distributes solid fuels but also has some retail outlets. It therefore sets a price for coal, wood and peat products which is not necessarily based on the base cost of materials. This is especially true of coal products. The bulk shipped cost of coal and the end product price are two very different things.

Bord na Mona, like all Irish Semi-State bodies is fat and lazy. It pays it's employees very well, maybe not quite as well as the other Semi-State energy company the ESB which has an average wage of €75,000 which is perhaps 40% higher than the general average. Add to the fat and lazy problems -  the problem of near monopoly in the marketplace, and you have a real danger that the public may not be best served.

What I refer to by "Fat and Lazy" is a phenomenon in which Ireland proudly holds the world lead, has set the standards, and has massively and adequately demonstrated it to the planet, the phenomenon of the "Self-Serving Institution".

What should be done with Bord na Mona?

If Bord na Mona actually served the people, as a Semi-State body should do,

(1) It's first priority should be to give the best possible value for money to the people, this is not the case.
(2) Secondly, it should make provisions for those who are seriously compromised by age or poverty.

In my, not so humble, opinion, Bord na Mona, like its sister, the ESB does neither of the above. When the phone business and the electricity business was properly opened to hard nosed market forces in Ireland, we saw the prices come down substantially and the service improve. Ergo: Business', which simply wants to turn a profit, can give much better value and return than Semi-State bodies.

Maybe it is time to scrap Bord na Mona and open the solid fuel business up so that the people can get better value for money.

A Government with Deaths on it's hands?

Also the Irish Government, in light of the severe winters we are experiencing, and the poor value returned by the Semi-State energy bodies,  needs to take a serious look at fuel poverty, or they will have increasing numbers of deaths on their hands from hypothermia among the poor and elderly.


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