The Census Population from an Environment Perspective 2011 and 2016

Posted on Friday, 30 October 2020
retrofit homes

Yesterday (29th October 2020) the CSO published the latest report on The Census Population from an Environment Perspective 2011 and 2016. As the name might suggest, this Report delved into the Census data for 2011 and 2016, to analyse the trends around housing energy use. The results are interesting and highlight a willingness of households to move to more sustaiable home heating. For low income households however, they also underpin the need to have more focused action on retrofitting older homes and increasing energy efficiency.

Headline outcomes from the Report include:

  • Households where there was a change of occupant were more likely to stop using solid fuel central heating
  • The counties with the highest proportions of households using peat central heating were Offaly (38%), Roscommon (27%), Galway county (23%), Longford (21%), Westmeath (20%) and Mayo (19%)
  • Almost two-thirds of occupied detached houses used oil as their central heating fuel in 2016 (63%) but this rate was much lower in terraced houses (22%) and in purpose-built apartments (3%)
  • More than half (53%) of households in Dublin 1 used electricity for central heating in 2016
  • Around 46% of occupied private households with no central heating in 2016 had one person living there and 30% of occupied private households with no central heating in 2011 also had no central heating in 2016
  • Rented households were more likely to use electricity (21%) in 2016 compared with up to 4% of households owned outright or with a mortgage using electricity as their main central heating fuel in 2016
  • Some 9% of households where the reference person was in poor health used coal central heating in 2016

Oil, gas and solid fuels were more likely to be used to heat older homes, suggesting that occupants of these homes would benefit from incentives to upgrade their heating system and invest in retrofitting. For low-income households, this should be supported through a change in the grants system whereby costs are front-loaded on households who could ill-afford them. Changing this system to model that used in other European countries, where the cost of retrofitting is provided through a subsidised loan, would make these homes more energy efficient and reduce the heating bill for these households.

Age is also indicated as a factor, with around half of all households were the main reference person was aged 65+ using oil in 2016 and households where the main reference person was aged 75+ more likely to have no central heating system or to be using solid fuels. This compares to those in the 18-34 age range which had a higher proportion using electricity (21 per cent in 2016).

More than one in ten households where the main reference person was unemployed or unable to work due to sickness or disabilty, used coal as their main central heating fuel. Again, this highlights the need for targeted interventions for low-income households.

BER Ratings

According to the latest Domestic BER data from the CSO, 230,604 homes have an energy efficiency rating of F or G, the two least efficient ratings. These properties are more likely to be older, and reliant on peat, coal and other fossil fuels. As older dwellings are more likely to have higher carbon dioxide emissions (by a factor of 9.7 when comparing the oldest dwellings to the newest), they also pose the most significant health risk to inhabitants.

Deprivation and Fuel Poverty

The latest deprivation indicators see an increase in the proportion of the population who were forced to go without heat in the previous year due to inability to afford it to 8.6 per cent—some 423,079 people and an increase of almost 54,000 on the previous year. The number of people unable to keep their house adequately warm in 2019 was 243,893, an increase of over 27,000 on 2018. The Fuel Allowance alone is insufficient to adequately address this need. It needs a targeted response.

Social Justice Ireland welcomed the €65 million allocation in Budget 2021 for deep retrofitting of social housing stock, and the additional funding for the National Home Retrofit Scheme. However we regret the lack of detail of any supports for individual homeowners to increase the energy efficiency of their homes and reduce their household bills without front-loading the associated costs. This should be addressed as part of the Just Transition plan.