Oil clubs a possible solution for off-grid households

New figures reveal that over 10,000 households in East Hampshire are estimated to be off-grid, and will be responsible for providing their own fuel this winter. The estimate was provided in response to a written parliamentary question submitted to the Department for Energy and Climate Change by Damian.

Heating oil is the main heating fuel for 53% of rural off-grid households in Great Britain. Off-grid consumers can encounter problems accessing adequate amounts of fuel in winter, as there is increased demand for heating oil and poor weather conditions can often mean that it is difficult to transport fuel to consumers’ homes.

However, there are ways in which households can prepare themselves. Purchasing oil before the weather deteriorates can enable consumers to take advantage of lower prices due to lower demand. Delivery times also tend to be quicker while demand is low and more mild weather conditions make disruptions to delivery less likely.

A debate on energy prices in the House of Commons before our last winter saw Damian draw attention to oil clubs as one possible approach. Oil clubs are a number of customers, usually around 20 people or more, in an area who place domestic fuel orders and arrange deliveries at the same time as a group. They can be very effective in rural and semi-rural area like East Hampshire. Buying in bulk can enable oil clubs to benefit from economies of scale, and deliveries can be made to an area in one trip rather than several. According to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), most oil clubs are able to save around 10% on fuel prices.

The price of heating oil fluctuates from season to season and from year to year, but the overall trend has been a rise in prices since 2004 when the average price was below 20 pence per litre, as opposed to 60.6 pence per litre as of September 2012. It is therefore important for consumers to make efforts to access the best deal for themselves or for their oil club. 97% of off-grid households live in a location served by four or more heating oil suppliers and therefore have access to choices. Websites such as www.boilerjuice.com allow homeowners to follow the price of heating oil, and suppliers in the local area can be found by entering residents’ postcodes on http://fps.findmydistributor.co.uk.

Damian Hinds said:

“Those who live off-grid in East Hampshire know all too well the high cost of heating oil. I hope more people living close to one another will consider forming oil clubs as a means of lowering their individual costs.”

Those who would like to form their own oil club can get advice and assistance from their local CAB, and those who are already members of a club are invited to register it with the CAB to enable households who are looking for a local club to find it.