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Northern Ireland tops UK fuel poor list

By Katie Anderson on June 1, 2012

Northern Ireland householders are being clobbered by spiralling energy costs; more so than anywhere else in the UK. 

The 2011 Annual Report on Fuel Poverty Statistics has revealed that 44% of households in Northern Ireland are classed as fuel poor, compared to 33% in Scotland and 26% in Wales. In the Republic of Ireland 19% face issues surrounding fuel poverty, whilst England came last in the poll with 18%.

A high percentage of households don’t have access to mains gas, which means they have to rely on more expensive fuels to heat their homes, such as oil. Add in to the mix lower wages which results in a higher proportion of fuel poor compared to other nations.

For a household to fall into the category of fuel poor it has to spend 10% or more of its combined annual income on heating their property to an adequate level. The report, published on Monday by The Assembly Committee for Social Development, says collaboration is key to reducing fuel poverty. It suggests a range of practical solutions, for example the feasibility of introducing alternative payment options for homeowners who use heating oil, such as pay-as-you-go schemes and regulating the oil industry.

“Fuel poverty has become endemic in our local communities with recent statistics citing that over 44% of people here are finding it increasingly difficult to heat their homes. It was within this context that my Committee initiated a fuel poverty event, where relevant departments, their committees and a range of stakeholders came together to devise targeted and workable solutions to combating fuel poverty,” commented Alex Maskey, committee chairperson.

“We were very keen to ensure that our report would focus on all the underlying issues that surround fuel poverty. We believe that our recommendations are realistic, practical and viable and if implemented will make a very real difference to the way we tackle fuel poverty in our local communities.”

The publication of the report coincided with a conference at the beginning of the week  which saw fuel poverty experts from across the five-nations get together at the Northern Ireland Assembly, more commonly known as Stormont, to discuss the escalating problems facing energy consumers in the UK. The event was hosted by Alex Maskey.