8 December 2011

The Fuel Poverty Coalition has welcomed today’s announcement by the Office Of the First Minister and deputy First Minister that £23 million will be paid to those most in need.  However, the Fuel Poverty Coalition is calling on the NI Executive to develop long term solutions that will permanently remove households out of fuel poverty.

Pat Austin, joint Chair of the Fuel Poverty Coalition said:

“This is welcome news to all those who will receive this payment.  We commend the Northern Ireland Executive for bringing this about.  That said, it is a one off payment and a more sustained approach will be required to tackle the huge problem of fuel poverty in the future.  The Programme for Government, now in draft, needs to include a detailed and costed action plan setting out how and when fuel poverty will be eradicated in Northern Ireland.”
 Also commenting, joint Chair, Antoinette McKeown said:
“We welcome the news that an additional fuel payment is to be made to almost 250,000households to help cover the costs of heating their home during this winter.  Whilst this is welcome relief for many households, we continue to call for the NI Executive to take this opportunity to develop solutions that will remove households from fuel poverty. Measures such as energy brokering[1], regulation of the oil industry[2], and incentives to encourage fuel poor households to move to natural gas[3] could all eliminate fuel poverty.  The Fuel Poverty Coalition will continue to work to eradicate fuel poverty in NI.”

[1] Energy brokering involves using the purchasing power of the Government’s estate to negotiate lower heating oil, natural gas and electricity tariffs/prices for fuel poor households.
[2] A recent OFT report said it was an “oddity” of the NI Market that the most common heating fuel, heating oil, is unregulated while the less common natural gas is regulated.
[3] Consumer Council research shows that it costs a household £1000 per year more to heat a home with oil as compared to gas.

Notes for Editors:
  1. The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland’s consumers.  The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all.  It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications.  It deals with individual complaints about buses, trains, planes, ferries, natural gas, electricity, coal and water.  For more information, visit www.consumercouncil.org.uk.