The price of oil and diesel or petrol, which is set on international markets, is outside our direct control. The Irish oil industry is fully privatised, liberalised and deregulated. There is free entry into the market. Prices at the pump reflect market factors such as global market price, transportation costs, euro-dollar fluctuations and other operating costs. In April 2008 the average price of petrol in Ireland was €1.20 per litre. The average price of diesel was €1.24 per litre. In April 2004 the average price of petrol was 93.8 cent per litre and that of diesel was 85.3 cent per litre.
Under the Electricity Regulation Act 1999, as amended, electricity and gas prices are the statutory responsibility of the independent energy regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation. I have no direct function in setting or regulating energy prices. I am, however, advised that the commission will commence its annual tariff review of Bord Gáis energy supply and ESB customer supply in the coming months. The commission has signalled that the recent upward trend in international fuel costs may have significant impact on electricity and gas costs for the coming tariff year 2008-09.
Increasing energy costs pose particular difficulties for vulnerable consumers, including the elderly and those on low incomes. A number of schemes are in place to assist those on low incomes in regard to fuel and electricity costs as well as to enhance the key contribution of energy efficiency to alleviating fuel poverty. The Revised Estimate for the Department of Social and Family Affairs includes provision of €158 million in respect of fuel allowance and electricity and natural gas allowances. I have provided €4 million to fund the warmer homes scheme in 2008. This scheme supports the installation of energy efficiency measures, including attic insulation, draught proofing, hot water cylinder insulation and wall cavity insulation. The scheme is co-ordinated by Sustainable Energy Ireland and is delivered principally through community-based organisations. Over 9,000 homes have benefited from the scheme since its introduction in 2003.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
The scheme is targeted at householders who are in receipt of the fuel allowance, disability benefit or invalid benefit and is provided either free of charge or for a nominal fee, less than €100. Households are identified by community-based installers working closely in association with other intermediaries including the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, health services and GP networks.
The fuel poverty action research project is assessing the effectiveness of the interventions delivered under the current warmer homes scheme in addressing fuel poverty. Its final report is due in coming months. Information on all national and local schemes of assistance in respect of fuel poverty is provided in the cross-agency information pack Keep Well This Winter, Stay Well and Warm.
In addition, my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, introduced a new housing aid for older people scheme last November which provides targeted support to improve conditions in the existing housing of older people. The scheme supports works that can improve the energy efficiency of homes, including insulation, provision of central heating and repair or replacement of windows and doors.