Whatever fuel you use to power your home, what can we do to help with bills?

How can you spot a rogue trader? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A third of homes in |Devon are without mains gas - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

John Hart leader of Devon County Council, writes for this title.

Cllr John Hart, leader of Devon County Council

Cllr John Hart, leader of Devon County Council - Credit: Devon County Council

Around one third of homes in Devon have no access to mains gas, according to national estimates of the number of domestic properties which aren't connected to the grid.

Given the sparse, rural nature of a large part of our county, the figure is not overly surprising.

But the break down is fascinating and will be a big help to us and our colleagues in the district councils as we try to combat the worst effects of fuel poverty.

That is only set to get worse in Devon and nationally as Putin continues to wage his completely unjustified war on the people of Ukraine and that madness has an impact on us all in the cost of living crisis.

The total number of homes not connected to the gas grid in Devon amounts to almost 118,000 and East Devon has the highest number at 20,360 with Torridge on 16,080 and North Devon at 13,370.

Unsurprisingly, the statistics for how people keep their homes warm vary around the county reflecting our diverse geography and the obvious differences in supply to urban and rural areas.

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For example 80 per cent of homes in Exeter use gas but in Torridge it's less than half that at 39 per cent.

In North Devon it's 59 per cent and East Devon it's 67 per cent.

In Torridge and West Devon, 29 per cent of homes are heated with oil and that drops to 17 per cent in North Devon, 14 per cent in East Devon and virtually zero in Exeter.

The figures for electricity are more consistent ranging from 15 per cent in East Devon and 17 per cent in North Devon to 23 per cent in Torridge and 24 per cent in the South Hams. Alternatives such as biomass and LPG are in low single figures across Devon.

But whatever type of fuel you use to heat your home, it's certain that it's going to be getting more expensive. So what are we doing to help?

Clearly, given the international and national circumstances, it's not an issue we can solve but we are trying to help those in Devon who are most badly affected. For example we are working as a county council with our district council partners in Team Devon and Torbay and Plymouth.

We've formed Cosy Devon and set up the Local Energy Advice Programme. This is a free, money-saving advice service which entitles people who are already in fuel poverty or at risk to a visit from a home energy advisor.

They can install free simple energy saving measures such as LED light bulbs and draught-proofing, check if you’re on the best energy tariff, arrange a free money advice consultation and help you find funding for further energy-saving home improvements.

It's open to all types of householders in Devon – homeowners, private renters and social housing tenants.

You can apply for yourself or somebody else, at www.applyforleap.org.uk/apply or by phoning 0800 060 7567.

We're running this service in partnership with Devon’s community energy organisations.

We are also working on setting up an online, one-stop shop to provide energy efficiency advice. We're aiming to launch this in the summer before the next round of fuel price increases in October.

It'll help people determine what grants they can access and provide a tool to see what measures would be most appropriate, what they would cost and the benefits.

We’ve also received another tranche of just over £5 million from the Household Support Fund and we’re working with Team Devon and Citizen’s Advice to help support those who are struggling financially.

Please watch out for further details.