Replacement boiler scheme unveiled
A boiler replacement scheme for vulnerable people will be introduced in Northern Ireland in the spring, it has been revealed.
The pilot is part of next month's strategy to reduce fuel poverty and is aimed at those with inefficient burners, the Department for Social Development said.
Temperatures have plummeted to record lows of minus 18C and electricity usage is at an all-time high.
Responding to an Assembly written question from Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott, Northern Ireland Social Development Minister Alex Attwood said: "I expect the new boiler replacement scheme to be in place for spring 2011.
"Unlike the boiler scrappage scheme in England, the Boiler Replacement Scheme will be targeted at vulnerable people who have inefficient boilers."
In England, vouchers worth £400 were offered to people replacing a boiler with a more efficient one. All £400 vouchers for England's boiler scrappage scheme were claimed by May this year.
A similar scheme in Scotland offers £400 vouchers to 5,000 households. It opened for applications from May 24 this year.
In Wales, vouchers worth £500 have been available since April 6. However, this is only open to those aged 60 and over.
Mr Elliott said approximately a third of households were in fuel poverty. This, coupled with spiralling heating costs, the recession and job losses, will increase the number of people in fuel poverty over the next year.
He added: "This should be welcomed by many households who have inefficient boilers. The current severe weather conditions which we have had to endure over the past three weeks again illustrate how difficult many people find it to heat their homes."