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The Government's climate and energy poverty plans are failing to address high energy prices and household reliance on fossil fuels, according to a research report from Friends of the Earth.
The report says that inadequate incomes, high energy costs and inefficient housing are the main reasons people are struggling to heat their homes.
Tenants renting from private landlords are most at risk of energy poverty, according to the report.
It found that rental properties tend to have larger numbers of older, low energy buildings and that Government plans to retrofit half a million homes by 2030 excludes many groups and communities who are most at risk of energy poverty and is skewed towards well off homeowners.
The report says a much more ambitious target should be set for the retrofitting of social housing and a minimum standard of B2 should be achieved in all social housing by 2030.
It also calls for regulations to be introduced to force landlords to ensure a minimum energy performance standard and that this should start with multi-property landlords in 2023.
Energy Policy Officer at Friends of the Earth Clare O'Connor said the research shows that if the Government is serious about meeting its climate targets, it will need to change its current approach and do it in a way that protects and prioritises households that are most in-need first.
She said: "Families who can't afford to pay their energy bills aren't in a position to invest in expensive retrofitting measures."
Ms O'Connor said the Government should be "going much further to make sure these families have access to the benefits of warm homes and lower energy bills.
"Retrofitting for low-income families in inefficient housing needs to be a top priority - much more investment is needed in State-led retrofitting programmes so they can reach more families, specifically the SEAI Free Energy Upgrade scheme and the Local Authority Retrofit Scheme for social housing."
Friends of the Earth said the research shows that Government policy on energy poverty is lacking in scale and ambition and there are serious problems with retrofitting/energy efficiency programmes, including waiting lists of up to three years for the SEAI’s free energy upgrade scheme, as well as a major labour and skills shortages.
It also said that the "poverty premium" experienced by many at-risk households is poorly understood, including customers being penalised for paying bills in cash and the inability to switch supplier without direct debits.