Islands face growing energy poverty crisis

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The island’s housing stock is harder to isolate, making Scotland-wide systems unsuitable and leading to increased electricity bills

Neil MacKay, whose Stornoway-based construction company has worked extensively on insulation and boiler replacement on the islands, called for a “bespoke” approach to tackling energy poverty based on a policy that is appropriate to the island’s conditions.

He said large sums of money have been wasted on ineffective insulation measures; that installing air heat pumps in poorly insulated houses will drive up electricity bills, and that the removal of open fires will deprive fuel-poor households of the cheapest option to heat their homes.

Mr. MacKay told the Gazette, “The key to this is isolation. They gave a lot of people the heat pumps (in social housing), but if the houses are not properly insulated it costs a fortune in electricity.

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“I couldn’t believe it when I became a town councilor and was called to look at some of the isolated houses, but people still lived in fuel poverty. A lot of money was thrown in the wrong direction. “

Mr MacKay said the flaw was in a system designed for central belt conditions and used in areas where it costs significantly more to insulate houses to a reasonable standard. The Scottish Government’s Green Deal is “a tick-off exercise” funded by energy companies to offset their carbon emissions.

“The scheme is designed for brick houses, which are not common on the islands. We frozen out because everything is made of concrete and stone. It’s a very urban solution, but on a Scotland-wide basis it is spot on and politicians who don’t get into the details can say, ‘We’re 95 percent done’ and they all say it’s great. The problem is that we are the five percent. “

Mr MacKay said that heat pumps “are only suitable for well-insulated houses” but many that are not well insulated have their chimneys removed. “When people are heavily in debt with electricity,” he said, “they can no longer have an open fire, which is by far the cheapest way to heat a house.”

While very critical of the Scottish government’s policies and failure to recognize the conditions outside the central belt, Mr MacKay said that things “have been completely nuts since the Greens came to power”.

He said the Scottish government has now “put in place a Rolls-Royce insulation standard that is nearly impossible to meet and would cost a fortune for every home – I’d be hard pressed to do this for £ 20,000″. He added: “Basically all insulation work has been stopped.”

“When people are heavily in debt with electricity,” he said, “they can no longer have an open fire, which is by far the cheapest way to heat a house.”

While very critical of the Scottish government’s policies and failure to recognize the conditions outside the central belt, Mr MacKay said that things “have been completely nuts since the Greens came to power”.

He said the Scottish government has now “put in place a Rolls-Royce insulation standard that is nearly impossible to meet and would cost a fortune for every home – I’d be hard pressed to do this for £ 20,000″. He added: “Basically all insulation work has been stopped.”

As already pointed out in the Gazette, all grants for the installation or modernization of oil boilers have also dried up under the SNP Green Deal, although this form of heating is used by almost half of the households on the Western Isles – more than 7,000 By now, elderly or disabled people may have fully funded the installation, but that has stopped.

Mr MacKay said there would be some logic in the new policy if there was a direct move from oil to full insulation and heat pumps, but there is no prospect of it, especially since many homes on the islands cannot be adapted that way.

He said he had contacted the MP and MSP for the Western Isles but they were “not ready to rock the boat, not even a bit”. However, Mr MacKay believes that with the threat of soaring electricity bills and 40 percent energy poverty on the islands, “a whole new way of looking at how all of this is handled is required.

“Advice never goes far enough in the food chain. If they spoke to people who have their jobs to do in places like this, they could understand that a bespoke approach is required and that one size doesn’t fit the whole of Scotland. “

As already pointed out in the Gazette, all grants for the installation or modernization of oil boilers have also dried up under the SNP Green Deal, although this form of heating is used by almost half of the households on the Western Isles – more than 7,000 By now, elderly or disabled people may have fully funded the installation, but that has stopped.

Mr MacKay said there would be some logic in the new policy if there was a direct move from oil to full insulation and heat pumps, but there is no prospect of it, especially since many homes on the islands cannot be adapted that way.

He said he had contacted the MP and MSP for the Western Isles but they were “not ready to rock the boat, not even a bit”. However, Mr MacKay believes that with the threat of soaring electricity bills and 40 percent energy poverty on the islands, “a whole new way of looking at how all of this is handled is required.

“Advice never goes far enough in the food chain. If they spoke to people who have their jobs to do in places like this, they could understand that a bespoke approach is required and that one size doesn’t fit the whole of Scotland. “

Meanwhile, the undesirable status of the Western Isles as the capital of energy poverty in Scotland was confirmed in another poll, this time by campaign group Energy Action Scotland – 40 percent of households versus a Scottish average of 24 percent.

The Scottish Government defines energy poverty as any household that, after deducting housing costs, spends more than ten percent of its income on energy.

The numbers come from a time of great concern about a likely explosion in energy prices by April due to a global surge in gas prices, which generate around 50 percent of UK electricity.

Angus McCormack, chairman of the Outer Hebrides Poverty Action Group, said, “The current and growing fuel crisis will have a major impact on the Western Isles, where another report says we have the highest rate of fuel poverty at 40 percent.

“What appalles me is that I and others have brought this matter to the attention of the Ofgem, SSE, Scottish and UK governments and little is being done to solve the problem. None of these organizations seem to care. Electricity prices must at least be reduced so that they are at the level of the Central Belt in Scotland. “


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