More than 18,000 oil heated households in Dorset could see their fuel bills soar if new government proposals go ahead, it is claimed.

The plans suggest oil homes should switch to electrically driven ‘heat pump’ technology in a bid to reduce carbon emissions from heating.

But the trade association for the oil heating industry says oil remains the cheapest form of heating, industry figures show unless expensive improvements are made to the energy efficiency of a home, heat pumps can cost up to 88 per cent more to run than a modern oil boiler for a typical three bedroom property. This would leave rural homes in Dorset facing a rise in their fuels bills of up to £750 per year.

At a time when incomes are being squeezed and living costs are rising, this would have serious implications for those already struggling to pay their energy bills and could plunge many more into economic hardship and fuel poverty.

It could also increase the already scandalously high number of older and vulnerable people in Dorset who die each winter because they can’t afford to keep warm.

In response, OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, has written to local MPs in Dorset who represent rural constituencies to highlight these concerns and urge the government to reconsider.

Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, said: “We fully support the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions from heating but these new government proposals are misinformed and misguided. Switching oil heated homes to heat pumps which are expensive to install and run could spell economic disaster for thousands of households in Dorset. This situation cannot be allowed to happen.”

OFTEC has put forward an alternative solution which involves moving oil heated households to a low carbon ‘bio-liquid’ fuel which would be simple to adopt and cost effective to run, whilst still significantly reducing carbon emissions.

Mr Farrow added: “Households in Dorset need affordable and practical alternatives to current government plans which are too expensive and could lead to catastrophic social harm, particularly for low income families and older people. With the support of local MPs, we hope we can make government see a better way forward.”