C: Giulia Bertelli via Unsplash

Trinity College to students: Wear more clothes instead of turning the heating on

Trinity College Dublin has offered its students some advice on how to deal with soaring energy costs in an email sent out today, it has been claimed. It has been reported that Ireland’s top university advises students to ‘wear additional layers’ of clothing instead of turning the heating on, and to only use energy when absolutely essential, according to Newstalk.

Newstalk reported that students living on campus were advised: “Instead of turning up the heating, try wearing additional layers to keep you warm” as the onset of autumn starts to bite. In the midst of a crippling nationwide energy and cost-of-living crisis, Trinity seem to be focused on the reduction of carbon emissions, with residents also asked to keep their thermostats at 18°C or lower, as “every 1C you turn your thermostat down by saves around €250 per year and reduces carbon emissions into the atmosphere”.

Other suggestions for all TCD students and staff included turning off lights, computers, and appliances at the end of the day or when not being used. In a request made to staff, the university said to “share fridge and freezer space with neighbouring offices and labs”.

In addition, it recommended that staff and students should “only use the amount of water [they] require when cooking, cleaning and filling the kettle”.

“Turning off the tap when brushing your teeth can save as much as 1,600 pints, 1,800 500ml bottles, 4,000 cups of tea and 25,600 shots per month”, the email said.

It also advised staff and students to seriously consider energy usage, cautioning: “Before consuming energy, ask yourself ‘is this essential?”

A push to go green is one of the factors thought to be behind Trinity’s goal to reach a 50 per cent increase in energy efficiency by 2030 (from 2006-2010).

“Accelerating climate change, uncertainty about security of supply and unprecedented price hikes in all our utilities are now major issues for both Trinity and each of us in our domestic settings,” the email said.

The college had made a number of changes to reduce energy consumption, including a gradual phase-out of the use of fossil-fuelled machinery in favour of electric machinery for landscaping.

It is the latest indication that times are dire for Irish students, after it was revealed that college students in Dublin are knocking on doors asking if rooms are available to rent despite not being on the market, as a shortage of affordable student accommodation plagues students in the capital and elsewhere.

Earlier this month, Irish utility Electric Ireland announced an electricity price hike of 26.7 per cent, and a 37.5 per cent gas price increase for residential bills in Ireland, starting this Saturday, 1 October. Meanwhile, electricity prices will rise by 29 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Here in the Republic, the price hikes equate to €37.20 per month on the average residential electricity bill, and €42.99 per month on the average residential gas bill, based on the estimated annual bill as set out by Ireland’s Commission for Regulation of Utilities.  In Northern Ireland, the increases will mean an increase of approximately £5.29 (€6.1) per week on the average residential electricity bill. From next month, the 24-hour standard rate for electricity in Ireland will reach €43c/kWh (including VAT) and the gas standard rate will stand at €15c/kWh.

The Budget, published yesterday, set out measures to attempt to lessen the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis with a range of temporary grants and support packages for students, including a once-off 1,000-euro reduction in the undergraduate student contribution fee for higher education students who are eligible for the free fees initiative.

A further €8m investment in the Student Assistance Fund for the 2022-2023 academic year was also announced, along with more once-off funding for the third-level sector to assist with soaring energy costs.

While some aspects of the Budget were welcomed, the government won sharp criticism for going ahead with a carbon tax on fossil fuels as the Irish people continue to grapple with an affordability crisis as the costs of basics rise.

The €7.50 increase will bring the tax per tonne to €48.50 as part of a planned series of increases up to 2030. The carbon tax hike will go into effect from 12 October on petrol and diesel, in theory adding 2c per litre to the cost, but the government says the removal of the NORA (National Oil Reserves Agency) levy which also adds 2c per litre, will mean the price at the pumps will not change.

The tax on coal, peat products and home heating oil will come into effect in May 2023.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath was among politicians who blasted the carbon tax, declaring in the chamber that “people are blue in the face with the green agenda”. Peader Tóibín, Aontú leader, agreed that the carbon tax increase was ill-timed, describing it as “absolute madness” and “wrong”.

Amid criticism, finance Minister Paschal Donohoe defended the decision to push ahead with the tax increase despite the rising cost of energy and the spiralling cost of living, making clear the government’s prioritisation of green energy goals.

“Protecting our environment is the responsibility of us all and the government is acting to reduce emissions and support newer cleaner technologies, particularly in energy and transport,” he said.

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