The start of May 2021 saw increases in solid fuel prices following on from carbon taxes introduced in the 2021 budget. National Traveller MABS is concerned with the implications of these increases in particular for Traveller families experiencing energy poverty. Here we discuss some of the issues at play.

What we know about energy poverty amongst Travellers living in mobile homes and trailers.

Energy poverty can be understood as an inability to keep your home adequately warm. Another measure often applied is if the household spends more than 10% of it income on energy. There are three factors that contribute to energy poverty, the energy efficiency of the home, the income of the occupants and the cost of fuel. Energy is one of the priority areas of spending for family budgets. As part of the work of National Traveller MABS we address the issue of energy poverty amongst Travellers as for many families experience energy poverty. To date our research has focused on Traveller families living in mobile homes and trailers. In 2018 we undertook a study into energy poverty among families among this group of families. In terms of accommodation, we found that the majority of families live in homes that are not of a residential standard or in other words, built to live in all year round. These homes are energy inefficient have poor insulation, may not be double glazed and on average are 15 years or older. Our research found that Travellers living in mobile homes and trailers spend on €108 per week on energy which is around 26% of income. Within the general population people spend 4% of income which is around €40 per week. This level of energy poverty has significant impacts on families being able to afford other spending like food. National Traveller MABS has made some recommendations that we think would reduce energy poverty, including providing access to residential standard mobile homes and increasing fuel allowances to families living on trailer/ mobile homes. The improvements in energy efficiency of homes will reduce the amount of fuel used, it won’t automatically create access to cheaper greener fuels, and the cost of solid fuel is also a factor in energy poverty for this group.

The impact of increases in taxes on solid fuel

The 2021 Budget saw the introduction of carbon taxes on auto fuels and solid fuels. While auto fuel increases took effect from October of last year, solid fuel increases began on 1st of May. The carbon tax on fuel sees a further increase by €7.50 from €26 per tonne to €33.50 per tonne. This translates into a €3.52 increase in the price of a 40kg bag of coal, a 76 cent increase in the cost of a bale of briquettes and €84 in extra for every fill of a 900-litre home heating oil tank.

These increases will have a significant impact on families already in energy poverty. There are about 1000 Traveller families living in mobile homes and trailers in the Republic of Ireland. Our research found that families generally use a combination of sources to heat their homes including electricity, gas, oil and solid fuels. Solid fuels used include coal, sticks logs and briquettes. Given that families already spend around 25% of their income on fuel these additional increases will push people further into energy poverty.

What needs to happen next?

We understand that carbon taxes are seen as a means of reducing the use of fossil fuels in an attempt to reduce global warming. However, it is also recognised that transition from fossil fuel to greener energy must include a planned system of protecting communities most vulnerable to carbon tax increases. In effect there must be a just transition. A just transition for Traveller families living in mobile homes will include providing affordable good quality homes with access to affordable greener energy. This will involve retrofitting day houses on halting schemes and group housing schemes, providing access in affordable way to residential standard mobile homes and finally re-thinking the electrification of sites to provide greener energy solutions. In the short term increases in fuel allowances could offset some of impacts of the increases in taxes on solid fuels. National Traveller MABS believe that there has to be developed a clear strategy for protecting vulnerable groups in this transition towards cleaner energy, otherwise carbon taxes will only further push Travellers towards the margins.

To read National Traveller Mabs Energy Poverty Report please click here

To read National Traveller MABS Energy Poverty Factsheet please click here

Published: 11 May 2021