Belfast Telegraph

Business Soapbox: Michael Kossack

By adopting a considered approach to energy-saving, the new Assembly's incoming politicians should be able to reduce fuel poverty and CO2 emissions without any severe impact on the Executive's budget, claims the CEO of Calor Gas

Fuel poverty has become a serious issue for many households throughout Northern Ireland and will be one of the biggest challenges facing the new Assembly.

It is a particularly urgent issue for rural people, who undertake longer commuting distances than their urban counterparts and often create a bigger carbon footprint due to the higher use of carbon fuels.

Calor supports Government activities aimed at tackling climate change - in fact, we believe current energy efficiency legislation focuses too much on the cost of fuel and not enough on CO2 reduction.

This has produced a scenario where houses are able to improve their energy rating by switching from Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) to oil, despite the fact that heating oil emits 20% more CO2 than LPG.

To meet the EU 2020/20 target, however, we need an energy policy that creates a level playing field for all energies and taxation based on the carbon emission per KwH, with an exponentially increasing scale.

The new Executive can simultaneously reduce fuel poverty and CO2 emissions by making available a clever combination of cleaner fuels (like LPG and natural gas) and promoting energy saving technologies.

It is important to focus on those technologies offering consumers the best balance between upfront investment and CO2 reductions. For example, simple heating controls costing between £400 and £500 can reduce energy consumption by as much as 15% or 20%.

External wall and roof insulation, and the replacement of old boiler or heating systems, can substantially reduce CO2 as well as costs, so an ambitious retrofit programme should be at the very top of the energy agenda.

Our new MLAs also need to grab the opportunity that exists in decentralised electricity generation by enabling a proper environment for the feasible use of large and small scale combined heat and power units.

Attractive generation and feed-in tariffs, similar to those already in place across the water in Great Britain, and low interest finance schemes should be made available to kick-start this market, with a reduction in feed-in tariffs for new installations when economies of scale are being achieved.

Finally, we need a clamp down on oil theft and the illegal filling of gas cylinders, the second of which leads not only to a substantial loss of tax revenue, but also puts consumers at serious risk.

A well-planned programme for all of the above could be implemented by the new Executive in such a way as to create jobs, reduce energy consumption and cut emissions - all at a limited impact on the Assembly's coffers.

Calor: A Global Player

Calor was established in 1937 and supplies LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) throughout Ireland. Calor is owned by SHV Gas, the largest dedicated global LPG distributor in the market. SHV Gas operates in 27 countries and supplies LPG to tens of millions of customers worldwide. Calor's turnover in 29 was €12m. The company employs 258 staff in six sites located throughout Ireland and a further 2 indirectly.