A pilot project which will see groups of residents pulling together to demand energy bill cuts has been launched in the north west.
A raft of organisations including Derry City Council, the Fold Housing Association, the Consumer Council and charitable group Bryson Energy will now work together on an energy brokering project in a bid to lower prices for consumers.
The project will roll out in Fold housing developments across the north west and if it proves successful will be extended across Northern Ireland.
It will bring tenants in Londonderry, Limavady and Omagh together to use their combined buying power to negotiate reductions on energy prices, particularly oil. Laurence Arbuckle of Bryson Energy said energy brokering and community buying is already well established in England, and has resulted in reduced energy prices.
“Bryson staff will be visiting Fold residents in their homes to give energy advice, carry our benefit maximisation assessments while also securing reduced quotations for their household oil usage.
“We will also be giving them budgeting advice on the different methods of paying for their fuel and directing them to our partners in the Credit Unions who are offering members a range of methods of saving plus loans to pay their utility bills.”
Bridie Doherty, area housing manager of Fold Housing Association, said: “We are very much aware of the rising energy costs and the impact it has on household costs.
“Our key priority is to work in partnership with organisations who can provide advice, assistance and more importantly solutions to our tenants on how they can reduce energy costs with sound financial payment options.”
Aodhan O'Donnell, director of policy for the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland, said that following research undertaken on energy brokering, the recently formed partnership was now confident in the potential of this project.
“With over 40% of people in Northern Ireland in fuel poverty it is vital that practical steps are taken to address this crisis.
“Any measure which has the potential to reduce energy costs at a time when so many households are struggling is good news.”
The pilot commences this month and will last for six months, when it will be evaluated and potentially rolled out across Northern Ireland.
The Energy Brokering Pilot Project is supported by a range of partners |including members of the Ulster |Federation of Credit Unions and the Irish league of Credit Unions, and is overseen by an advisory panel including the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and National Energy Action (NI).