The Housing Executive has urged local people to join community oil clubs set up in the Derry and Limavady areas to help get better deals as prices start to rise.
Three schemes, funded by the Executive and run by social enterprise Bryson Energy, are already running in the north west in Ballykelly, Maydown and one in Outer North area, taking in Shantallow, Ballymagroarty, Cornshell, Galliagh and Carnhill areas.
Noel Rice, Housing Executive Energy Consultant Manager, said people could save around £20 on their oil order.
The scheme works by checking with club members who needs oil each month and then Bryson cross-checking oil prices with all suppliers in the local area. By buying in bulk they are able to secure a cheaper deal and go with the best offer. Members who have asked for oil in any particular month are then contacted directly by the oil supplier and advised of the delivery details and pay as normal on delivery. Minimum order is 200 litres and people are required to order a minimum of once a year.
Mr Rice said that the oil clubs are a three-year project introduced following research into schemes elsewhere.
“The more in the community that club together the more they can drive down prices,” he said.
Back in the 1990s when many households were switched to oil, fuel was relatively cheap but went on to jump in price. “At its worst in 2009 it was not far off 70p a litre,” Mr Rice said. “During most of the 90s and early 2000s it was averaging 16p/17p a litre. We can’t do anything about oil market prices but if we can get people together to bulk buy, that is attractive to the supplier as it saves labour, transport costs and time and is also a major order. Suppliers are very keen to get that order.
“Lots of people grew up in households where the fuel costs were a few bags of coal a fortnight. With the clubs they can spread the cost by buying in more frequently, and the co-ordinators does all the management. It’s about helping tenants to budget better. In the last year oil has come down to its lowest in 12 years but our view was to get the clubs up and running for when, inevitably, they start rising again.”
The Executive said that ordering through an Oil Club means people can avoid having to buy often expensive emergency 20 litre oil drums.
Lorraine McWilliams from Greater Shantallow Area Partnership said the clubs were designed to help those facing fuel poverty.
“I have been in people’s houses where they turn on the electric cooker for heat,” she said. “Before I myself would have got a loan off the Credit Union and got the oil, like a lot of other people.”
Ms McWilliams helped set up the Outer North Club and is now a member herself.
“We had looked at oil clubs before but the administration is nearly a full-time job in itself and the beauty with this one is the administration is all done by Bryson.
“The way it works they phone all oil companies in Derry and send me a text once a month asking if I need any oil and I text back. Then the oil company that’s the cheapest get in touch to tell us when delivery is. It’s £18-£20-£25 cheaper than normal.
“It’s definitely worthwhile,” she added.
The NI Consumer Council have said the average price for 500 litres of oil here increased by over £6 in four weeks to £144.63 at the end of March. With the Oil Buying Club scheme, the average price for oil in March was £124.15 , 10% cheaper.
There are now 27 clubs in the north, with 2,250 members. The club scheme is open to home owners, housing association, Housing Executive, and private-rented tenants. It’s free to join and people can expect savings of £15 to £30 on their oil orders.
The next oil buy for Maydown, Outer North and Ballykelly clubs will be on May 10. To join call 0800 1422 867.