Christmas lights and office heating in the firing line to reduce public sector energy bills

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS may need to be dimmed this winter as local authorities look for ways to reduce their electricity bills.

Energy Secretary Eamon Ryan said he would not insist on restricting festive exhibitions but stressed that city and county councils need to reassess their overall energy use.

“I think the local authorities are starting to look into this. They’re starting to consider any measure, but we’re not going to that level yet,” he said.

Mr Ryan and the Taoiseach and Tánaiste are meeting today to discuss the energy crisis and possible measures to alleviate its impact.

They are expected to agree to proposals to seek energy savings in public sector buildings through temperature limits on heating systems and the merging of floors and offices so that heating, lights and air conditioning are not running in sparsely occupied workplaces.

“We need to lead by example in the public sector,” Ryan said.

Schools, libraries and other important public facilities would be protected, he said.

Schools should try to manage their energy bills better – but not by saving on heating.

He said the Covid experience had shown how important it was for children to be in school and he didn’t want to create any difficulties in that regard.

He said facilities like libraries could do a very important service this winter by providing warm, social places for people during difficult times.

“Keeping libraries warm and busy is exactly what we should be doing during a difficult winter.”

The three party leaders will also discuss the introduction of a range of supports to help households and businesses with their energy bills, as well as European Commission proposals for a price cap for certain energy producers.

The proposal is similar to a windfall tax on excess profits from companies that benefit from rising gas prices, but would target electricity suppliers that don’t rely on burning gas to generate electricity.

Wind energy companies in particular have benefited the most as they don’t have to buy expensive gas but can still sell their electricity at the very high prices charged by the rest of the market.

The government is reluctant to levy a windfall tax because it would mainly hit wind energy companies, on which the country depends to invest billions in offshore turbines.

Mr Ryan said he expected the government to support the Commission’s proposal.

“It’s a mechanism that I think could work, should work, will work. We have yet to get the final details on this but I believe the Commission proposal is good and could work in the Irish market.”

However, he warned that households and businesses would find this winter very difficult, despite all government action.

He urged people to be as energy efficient as possible and to consult government tips on the Reduce Your Consumption campaign.

But he said people should too care about their comfort.

“A really important message for households is to stay warm, but let’s be smart about it, without waste.” Christmas lights and office heating in the firing line to reduce public sector energy bills

Fry Electronics Team

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