Each year, some 1,300 people die prematurely in Ireland due to air pollution from solid fuel burning. It is estimated that there are over 16,200 life years lost, while many people also experience a poor quality of life due to the associated short, and long-term health impacts of this form of pollution. It is in this context that I have decided to introduce new standards for all solid fuels, which will serve to remove the most polluting from the Irish market I am also conscious that some householders face the risk of fuel poverty, and burning solid fuel is the main or only way they have of heating their homes. However, it should be noted that better quality fuel burns more efficiently, and actually represents better value for money. The Domestic Fuels Comparison of Energy Costs report, published quarterly by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, consistently shows that low smoke coal is the most efficient type of coal in terms of cost per units of heat produced, and the second most cost-efficient overall.
Lowest income households are often impacted the most from the health impacts of burning smoky fuels. The highest pollution levels recorded on cold, still evenings are regularly concentrated in areas dependent on solid fuels. The goal over the lifetime of this government is to provide support to retrofit these homes, and in the interim, to ensure they can be heated in a way that improves public health.