New fuel price hike blow as consumers face 10% rise in cost of coal
As the cost of gas and oil soars, the last energy source largely unaffected by the slump - coal - is to face a substantial price hike.
Solid fuel prices could rise by as much as 10% as of next month, according to the Coal Advisory Service.
The rise comes after the other three main heating sources, oil, gas and electricity, have all seen costs rocket, landing a further blow on those already vulnerable.
Almost half of households in Northern Ireland are now deemed to live in fuel poverty.
John French, head of energy at the Consumer Council, said many homes have been using coal to help offset the soaring prices of other fuels.
He said: "It's going to affect those on the verge of fuel poverty in Northern Ireland - with 44% of people already suffering.
"We have a lot of evidence that they are supplementing their heating with coal.
"It's yet another trouble for families already struggling. With oil you generally have to bulk-buy, but people can more easily afford a bag of coal."
He urged politicians here to find a solution to the burgeoning problem as winter approaches.
"We are calling on the Executive to urgently grasp the affordability issue of energy," he said.
"We need them to set up a road map and timescale as a plan.
"In places like Dundee, for example, they use their purchasing powers to get better deals for tenants. That could be one idea."
The Consumer Council has also called on the home heating oil industry to do more to help the elderly and vulnerable in Northern Ireland.
Earlier this month the Belfast Telegraph reported that homes in Northern Ireland are facing a massive electricity price hike of almost 20% from October.
It is believed the rise in electricity prices will put a further 50,000 Northern Ireland households into the fuel poverty bracket.
There are currently three times as many struggling households in Northern Ireland than there are in England.
Gas prices here also rose by a shocking 40% earlier this summer.
The Coal Advisory Service stressed that the rises, blamed on increasing cost pressures in the world market, were significantly lower than hikes to other energy sources. Price rises are likely to come into effect towards the middle of September.