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Carbon tax pushes up Irish fuel bills

Latest rise in Solid Fuel Carbon Tax sparks concern for elderly

The price of coal and briquettes rose at the beginning of May, as the second phase of the Solid Fuel Carbon Tax came into effect.

It means a 40kg bag of coal will now cost €1.20 more than before, while a bale of briquettes has risen in price by 24 cents.

According to recent census information, more than 200,000 people across Ireland still rely on either coal or peat to heat their homes and provide energy.

Other fuels, including kerosene, liquid petroleum gas, fuel oil, solid fuels, marked gas oil and natural gas are all covered by the tax.

The latest rise marks the second successive year in which the tax has led to increased prices, after similar increases in May 2013.

It means that the average cost for a 40kg bag of coal is now around €18, of which €2.40 is made up of carbon tax.

Meanwhile, a bale of briquettes costs between €4 and €5, of which 52c is carbon tax following the latest increases.

The concept of carbon tax was first introduced in 2010, with the rate of tax taking effect from May 1 2013 – charged at a rate of €10 per tonne of CO2 emitted by the fuel concerned.

That rate of tax increased to €20 per tonne from May this year and a bag of logs is currently is the only fuel which does not have carbon tax applied to its costs.

The recent rise has raised concerns that the most vulnerable people in Ireland could suffer as a result, with Age Action Ireland calling on the government to divert funds to assist pensioners.

According to the charity, the new increase will have a much greater impact on elderly people who live alone in rural communities.

They suggested that mortality rates had increased during the winter months as the elderly struggled to cope with the cold, with many people falling victim to cold-related conditions such as cardiac arrests.

In 2011, some 11,709 people over the age of 65 were living alone and relying on coal for their energy while a further 15,944 people in the same age bracket were relying on peat.