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Minister gives community heating the cold shoulder

11 September, 2008

Minister gives community heating the cold shoulder

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has hit out after the Social Development Minister revealed that community heating schemes would not be considered as part of the Fuel Poverty Taskforce's remit.

"I wrote to the Minister for Social Development Margaret Ritchie calling for the Fuel Poverty Taskforce, which was established by her Department, to consider the benefits of community heating schemes," Ms. Anderson said.

"These schemes are used widely in Scandanavia and work by creating a distribution network which distributes heat from a central location to homes within any given district.

"A community heating scheme in the Hutchestown area of Glasgow led to a massive drop in each home's annual heating bill which fell from an average of £700 a year to around £182 a year.

"Can you imagine the impact that would have in the current climate where people are literally being forced to choose between heating or eating?

"I was extremely disappointed at the Minister's response which stated that the taskforce would only be pursuing short-term measures and community heating would not be considered as it is a longer-term solution.

"I would urge the Minister to reconsider that position and give due regard to all potential measures to alleviate fuel poverty. Otherwise, we will continue to face the same problems every single year.

"For our part, Sinn Féin will continue to pursue every possible avenue in order to address this crisis. That includes modern community heating and our proposal to source low-cost domestic heating oil from Venezuala. The Venzualans are keen to explore the possibility of entering into an arrangement with the Executive and I hope that all parties will back up their concern on fuel poverty by supporting initiatives such as these.

"In the meantime, I would urge everyone to take advantage of the financial assistance which is already in place to make their homes more energy efficient. More information on this can be obtained by calling the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012."

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