We had a great day yesterday meeting MPs with rural constituencies. Therese Coffey and Paul Aldous both have a keen interest in rural affairs and in particular fuel poverty. As everyone knows it a busy time in politics so we are grateful for the time they made available to meet us.
The strong rural bias in their constituencies means both Therese and Paul are acutely aware of the problems faced by heating oil users. Clearly the recent fall in prices has been a welcome improvement but the outlook is for oil prices to climb again, even if it’s not back to the heady heights of late 2013.
For many people moving to an alternative and cheaper energy source simply isn’t an option. Either the choice doesn’t exist – the mains gas network isn’t changing, or the cost of change is prohibitive. Swopping oil for biomass may result in lower costs but the upfront investment is more than many users can afford.
This means that oil buying clubs are an important tool for consumers and a way of lowering their energy costs without any upfront costs. Both Therese and Paul are aware of the schemes that already exist in their areas, our meetings were an opportunity for us to demonstrate the benefits of the system and how it can help small community groups and offer an alternative to the large council schemes.
Many rural communities have no access to mains gas and with oil prices continuing to raise the price of heating oil is a huge cost for many households. It is not surprising then that the number of heating oil buying groups across the country is on the rise.
Setting up a heating oil club could be a great way for you, your neighbours and your community to save money on your deliveries.
The Oil Buying Club system allows you to stay in control. You can invite members from across your community and select the suppliers you want to deal with.
Creating a community oil buying club is a very simple process – just three steps:
1: Establish that you have enough potential members in your area to make the club viable.
A club can start with as few as 20 members as long as everyone works together. Ideally the new club should have the capacity to grow to 100+ members. In rural areas it’s typically a collection of 3 or 4 villages as long as there is good support.
Having the correct heating controls is essential for an efficient heating system. Clever use of controls can help you minimise energy consumption by ensuring each room is at the right temperature for comfort, while avoiding overheating.
For several years in the village of Sedgeberrow we have sought to improve our environment credentials through the Sedgeberrow Sustainable and Manageable Energy Group (SeSaME). The group has initiated a number of ideas to improve energy efficiency and lower costs for households in the area. Part of this was an oil buying club which we established in 2011. Running the club involved quite a lot of paperwork and so we restricted membership to the village. However, it was always clear that the oil club produced real benefits for the villagers who were members; lower prices, less hassle with orders and the knowledge that fewer tankers were using our local roads.
We may not be experincing the snow fall that America is but the recent drop in temperatures is a timely reminder winter is fast approaching. Experienced Oil Buying Club Managers know that November is the most important order of the year. It’s the last opportunity for club members to fill up ahead of the Christmas period, with supplier schedules affected by depot closures during the seasonal break and January often being the start of colder weather and increased demand for oil.
Based in Sedgeberrow, the club covers an area to the south west of Evesham in Worcestershire. We first met Mike when we presented at a meeting of Parish Councillors within the Wychavon District Council area. A meeting followed on from that which led us to launching the club on the Oil Buying Club System.