Community Energy Club, the oil buying club run by Community Energy Plus, has been awarded £59,000 from the Department of Energy and Climate Change to develop its services for oil customers.
Community Energy Club, which celebrated its first birthday in November and has 1500 members, will be using the funding to further tackle some of the challenges faced by heating oil customers in the South West. They will be recruiting a Development Officer through the Unlocking Cornish Potential graduate scheme to assist with this work. The team is also planning on using the funding to develop its online presence and geographical reach, hoping to double membership numbers in Cornwall and also extend the service to Devon.
Community Energy Plus has found that oil buyers face significant challenges in buying reasonably priced oil. Many customers enter into direct debits with suppliers and whilst initial prices are usually relatively cheap, they will often then increase rapidly so the customer is paying over the odds.
Although it is convenient to pay by direct debit and have your tank topped up regularly, it is rarely the most competitively priced option. Many oil buyers suffer inflated prices simply because they don’t always have the time to ring around suppliers and negotiate the cheapest price.
The club will be making its next group purchase on the 28th January, with orders taking place every two weeks thereafter. As part of the new developments, they will also start buying reactively, so that if oil prices drop, they can take customers to market as soon as possible rather than waiting for buying dates.
Nicola McCheyne, Project Delivery Team Manager at Community Energy Plus, said: “Over the last year, we’ve seen a continual growth in membership of the club. What we’re hoping to do with this funding is make it even easier for people to place their orders, grow the membership further so we have more bargaining power, and of course drive prices down as far as possible to ensure customers are getting the best price on their oil. Some buyers are very shrewd when it comes to ordering oil, and have the time to negotiate the cheapest prices, but we’re still hearing from people who have continually paid 20p per litre over the odds, and these groups are the ones who will really benefit from joining an oil buying club.”
Nicola goes on to say: “Another major part of our development will be working more closely with local oil suppliers to maintain a good working relationship with them, ensuring we get the best deal for our customers”
The Community Energy Club was developed in 2011 in response to rapidly increasing oil prices, which have forced many consumers into fuel poverty, switching off their heating to save money. The club ensures that members are able to get competitively priced oil without the hassle of ringing around suppliers. In December last year, the club was Highly Commended in the BIS ‘Buy Better Together’ challenge, and won support and mentoring to put in place a business plan to develop the club.
Visit www.communityenergyclub.org.uk or call 0800 954 1956 for further information and to join the club and place an order.