Northern Ireland is the UK´s most oil-dependent nation and 68% of homes use heating oil. This is the largest percentage in Western Europe.
In the week after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, oil prices in the country shot up by more than 35%. According to the Northern Ireland Consumer Council, the average price for 900 litres of home heating oil increased by more than £200 that week, from £555.72 on the 24th of February to £758.11 on the 3rd of March. On the 10th of March the price for 900 litres had reached £1181.53.
National Energy Action (NEA), a charity working to eradicate fuel poverty and campaign for greater investment in energy efficiency, has said that the number of homes experiencing fuel poverty in Northern Ireland is predicted to have doubled from 22% to more than 40%.
Oil is unregulated in Northern Ireland and therefore cost increases are passed on directly to the consumer. This means that the spike in prices is felt by households practically overnight.
Some homes are turning to social enterprise buying groups and oil buying clubs to be able to access heating oil at a slightly reduced cost and the Northern Ireland executive has agreed to bring in one-off £200 payments to help people struggling with rising energy prices.
Nonetheless, the situation is alarming and this problem is clearly adding to the impacts of the wider cost of living crisis, a crisis that is seeing prices increasing on shop shelves and wages failing to match inflation, which is at a 30-year high at 5.4%.