If you live in a home with central heating powered by OIL then you will probably remember that there was a huge learning curve to getting used to it; if you don’t live with it then lucky you.
Either way imagine for a moment that you are 19 and you have moved into your first home on your own with your little boy who is just two. When you moved in somebody mentioned something about a tank in the garden which was a quarter full of something called kerosene. It was April and you thought nothing of it. Come October you went to turn on your heating, but unfortunately you found that it did not come on. What do you do? There were so many things to think about and cope with just getting used to being on your own with your little one, OIL wasn’t a priority. Bewildered and worried you ask a neighbour for help, they take a look in your tank to find you have a problem – one empty tank.
I personally looked in that tank some weeks later to see that it wasn’t just empty it had been completely drained – it may have been stolen but it was more likely the last tenants had used it up. Either way it simply meant no heating. In the meantime Leanne had borrowed several electric heaters from various different sources and had learnt the hard way that those things suck your money up. The one positive was that she could at least manage to keep paying small amounts onto her key card for her prepayment electricity meter and so they were not freezing.
That is when the agreement we put in place with Cottsway Housing Association began. Deeply concerned about Fuel Poverty, Cottsway put their money where their mouth is and funded Smart Meters for an initial pilot with some of their tenants who use OIL and are particularly vulnerable. In return we have developed our Community OIL Fund so that we can purchase OIL on behalf of their tenants. Once fitted the Smart Meters inform us of the amounts they use and they can then pay for their OIL as they use it. This is the first pay as you go system for OIL in GB and it creates a solution to an issue that the heating OIL industry has never been able to solve. It is the fairest way to ensure those on low incomes are able to heat their homes using heating OIL and help them make the step up out of OIL Fuel Poverty.
So what has the impact been for Leanne? When she was using the electric heaters she was topping her card up frequently and averaging £50 per week. Since she began using the OIL she has reduced her weekly electricity spend by over £30 a week. But this is the crunch question: how much has the OIL she has used cost her? Well it is early days but the great news is that the £20 a week payment plan we set up is more than covering her OIL usage. In other words her £50 spend has been replaced by two separate spends of less than £20 each and she is saving well over £10 per week. If this continues for the six months of the year she is likely to use her heating then she will be over £260 better off. When I explained that to her and asked her what having an extra £260 a year will do for her she began to well up. This has happened several times now and it catches me out every time so I smile and try to move on! Quickly I showed Leanne the online graphs from the Smart Meter so she can see what she is using and she literally did a double take and said: “I feel like I finally understand what I am doing”. Then I showed her the little device that changes the temperature and shows how many more days usage she could get for her money and she said: “I am going to save even more if I use that too”.
Happy heating OIL users!
I don’t really know what else to say, I really don’t. It works! It has worked for many others too as we have put OIL in their tanks and they have responded in many different ways but often with some tears: a lovely old lady who had become a widow last year said she hadn’t even known how to take the lid off the tank or call for a top up because her husband had always done everything, so she had run out of OIL and not ordered since!
If we had not put this in place Leanne would still be bewildered about her central heating and she would be feeding her meter with money that she can’t afford, simply because she could never have afforded the upfront payment for the minimum delivery. This is simply unfair, but then Heating OIL is unfair. The pay as you go system is such a unique and inclusive solution that we must take it across every county, every housing association and along the way to every OIL user that needs it.
The Community OIL Fund is an investment fund, a social fund and a sustainability fund – we have already been inundated with amazing funding offers, interesting offers of support and difficult cases to help.
I have a question: would you like to help? Levi would tell you it can make a world of difference.