18 August 2021
The Fuel Poverty Coalition warns that unprecedented increases in wholesale energy costs could lead to the ‘Perfect Storm’ this winter

 

The Fuel Poverty Coalition (FPC) Northern Ireland are concerned that a dangerous combination of higher energy prices, reduced incomes, and leaky, inefficient housing could put many households at risk of fuel poverty this winter.

The Coalition’s fears stem from the significant increase in wholesale energy prices, which will likely result in consumers seeing an increase in their energy bills. According to the Consumer Council NI’s Home Heating Oil price survey, the average price for 500 Litres of Oil in Northern Ireland is £218.66 (on 12 August 2021), this is significantly up on the £144.87 this time last year.

These increases come at a time when many household budgets are already stretched thin. The winding down of the furlough scheme and the likely withdrawal of uplifts to Universal Credit put further stress on many families in Northern Ireland.

Fuel Poverty is most common among vulnerable households which includes those with older people, babies and young children, adults with disabilities or long-term health conditions. Living in fuel poverty can severely affect a person’s physical and mental health, and in the most severe cases can contribute to death.

 

Pat Austin, Director of National Energy Action (NEA) NI and Chair of the Fuel Poverty Coalition comments:

“Whilst we don’t want to cause panic, we believe consumers in Northern Ireland can expect to see significant price rises on their energy bills in the coming winter. Any additional cost to household energy runs the risk of pushing vulnerable households into fuel poverty and worsening the conditions for those already impacted. The Fuel Poverty Coalition believe it’s important that households in Northern Ireland are warned about the likely upcoming price changes so that they can prepare accordingly.

“We would suggest that households start taking practical steps now, such as looking into energy efficiency improvements or budgeting a little extra if they can each week to help cover the increased cost”.

 

Cold Hard Facts

  • Every winter thousands of people are faced with living in properties which are dangerous or unfit for colder seasons. 22% of households in Northern Ireland still live in fuel poverty, meaning they live below the poverty line but also have much higher bills due to poor levels of energy efficiency.
  • Independent analysis suggests that, during winter months, families in cold, leaky homes are facing heating bills on average of £124 per month, compared with £76 per month for those in well-insulated homes (a £50 per month difference).
  • Around 68% of households in Northern Ireland are reliant on Home Heating Oil to heat their homes; an unregulated fuel in terms of price and consumer protection.
  • The 2019-2020 UK Fuel Poverty Monitor, found that COVID-19 had created difficult conditions for fuel poor households, driven by an increase in energy use, due to more people spending more time at home, and a reduction in income, as many jobs were either lost or placed on furlough.

 

In light of the challenges presented by the unprecedented energy price increases, the Fuel Poverty Coalition has launched a new ‘Manifesto for Warmth’, which details 7 key asks to help eradicate Fuel Poverty in Northern Ireland. This can found on our website at: A Manifesto for Warmth (2021).

We are calling on our Northern Ireland MPs, MLAs, Councillors Political Parties and Candidates to embed our key asks into the Programme for Government, ensuring that clear and measurable targets are set for achieving these.

 

Ends

 

Notes for Editors
  1. The FPC was established in 2010 in response to the increasingly serious levels of fuel poverty in Northern Ireland. The Coalition’s aim is to drive forward the fuel poverty agenda in Northern Ireland in terms of both policy and practical initiatives.
  2. Members are united by the fact that they wish to highlight the urgent action needed to eradicate fuel poverty in Northern Ireland.
  3. Currently, the Coalition has a membership base of over 160 members from across Northern Ireland; representing businesses, environmental groups, trade unions, the health sector, local councils, consumer groups, housing associations, rural support networks, the voluntary and community sector, young person’s groups, older person’s groups and faith groups.
  4. More information can be found on the Coalitions website: http://fuelpovertyni.org.

 

For more information, please contact:

Pat Austin, Director, NEA NI.  Tel: 07703 210390.  Email: Pat.Austin@nea.org.uk.

Jamie Miller, Policy and Campaigns Officer, NEA NI.  Tel: 07591 596145.  Email: jamie.miller@nea.org.uk.