Village oil groups join forces to lead fight against fuel poverty

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North Yorkshire village oil clubs are now joining forces to become major syndicates sparking bidding wars among the large energy providers.

The move across the county is in response to soaring rates of oil, gas and electricity which are plunging ever greater numbers of rural homes into fuel poverty.

Yet energy experts say the new village syndicates are one of the most effective weapons yet in the battle against rising costs.

One of the biggest in North Yorkshire, The Lower Swale Heating Oil Syndicate, comprising 10 individual oil co-operatives from villages in a 10-mile radius around Easingwold, now has more than 800 members.

The syndicate’s monthly order is around 216,000 litres of oil – the equivalent of 12 tankers – and estimates its savings as around £55,000 a year.

The size of the order has seen oil providers trying to underbid each other to secure their custom and has resulted in it needing to be split into two.

The syndicate is now looking to join forces with others in the area in a move supported by the Yorkshire Energy Partnership, North Yorkshire Credit Union and Hambleton District Council, to help support residents who are in fuel poverty – defined as the need to spend more than 10 per cent of household income on fuel to maintain adequate warmth.

Bob Hayes, co-ordinator of the Alne Heating Oil Co-operative, one of the groups that makes up the Lower Swale syndicate, said: “We wanted to combine our co-operatives in order to have a bigger buying power.

“But it has now become so big we are having to split our orders.

“We are all surprised at how successful this has become and extremely pleased.

“Now we are looking to raise awareness among elderly residents who are sometimes the most difficult people to attract to the scheme.

“We have members now going out to talk to elderly residents about the benefits of the scheme.”

Another successful North Yorkshire oil syndicate is the Osmotherley Oil Buying Group, which now purchases oil on behalf of 130 households across six neighbouring villages including Knayton, Borrowby, Ingleby Cross and Swainby.

The group says since it started it has already knocked thousands of pounds off the collective village heating bill.

New figures have revealed that 26 per cent of all households in the region are suffering fuel poverty leading to more than 2,300 deaths every winter.

Experts have said the startling increase in fuel poverty shows the situation is now at breaking point, amid predictions that bills will continue to rise by as much as 25 per cent by 2020.

Households across rural areas of Yorkshire are bearing the brunt of the problem.

The latest figures show that 27 per cent of homes in Ryedale, 24 per cent in Richmondshire, 23 per cent in Craven and 22 per cent in Hambleton are officially classed as being in fuel poverty.

Many of these homes are off the national gas network and need to rely on oil or liquid propane gas for heating, which can cost twice as much.

Bryony Wilford, sustainable development officer at Hambleton and Richmondshire District Councils, said as well as saving money, the rise in oil co-operatives is also now helping to reduce emissions across the county.

“These oil co-operatives have increased in recent years,” she said.

“Now they have got together it has got to the second stage where they are starting to see how they can reduce the amount of oil they buy in the first place.”

The Lower Swale Heating Oil Syndicate is holding am energy day, to focus on eradicating fuel poverty and promoting sustainable energy, on Saturday March 24 in Alne Village Hall from 9am to 1pm.