Almost a quarter of people in Berwick are living in fuel poverty due to rising prices, low wages and poor energy efficiency.
That was the startling figure revealed by Berwick Community Trust’s low carbon officer at a meeting of the town council’s environment and regeneration committee last week.
Derek Russell said that of the 6464 households in the Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal area, an estimated 1,600 were in fuel poverty.
“It’s a very, very scary number,” he said.
Fuel poverty - driven by the energy efficiency of the property, household income and the cost of energy - is rife in Berwick and can see families unable to heat their homes.
Recent works on properties in Newfields and Highfields should improve efficiency in properties there. But with average energy bills reaching £1400 in the town, Berwick Community Trust has been investigating other ways to bring them down.
“One way in which some can reduce the problem a little is by moving away from electrical and solid fuel heating to mains gas,” Mr Russell said.
More than 300 households in Berwick are in this position. The average saving by switching from electricity to mains gas for heating is estimated at between £275 and £870 per year, depending on house size.
“There are grants of up to £2500 available to assist eligible households having a gas connection made to their home,” Mr Russell said. “They depend on proximity to the gas network and the circumstances of the household, including factors such as age and the receipt of various benefits.
“If a group of residents needs a connection the cost of installation can be less, and the idea can become even more attractive.”
As such, the community trust is asking for residents who may be interested in a switch to contact them.
“We’re looking to try and get that information to people who can benefit from it,” Mr Russell said. “The more people we can get to take an interest in this, the more benefits there are.”
Due to the lack of a suitable gas network it is unlikely to be economic for anyone outside of the Berwick town area to consider the switch.
“This project’s main aim is to develop a low carbon strategy for the town of Berwick,” Mr Russell added. “Something long term that is going to have a lasting benefit.”