SCOTTISH Greens’ Highlands and Islands MSP Ariane Burgess has called on the UK Government to heed calls for a Shetland energy tariff to allow communities to benefit from renewables and tackle fuel poverty.
In a letter to Scotland Secretary Alister Jack, Burgess urged the government to recognise the pressing need to avoid a situation where all of the profits from Shetland’s renewables flow south without benefiting island communities.
The idea of a “Shetland tariff” has support from the council, as well as local political representatives.
The concept would allow the islands to buy electricity wholesale, leading to cheaper prices.
With the large Viking Energy wind farm due to come on stream in 2024, Shetland is set to become a net exporter of energy in the coming years but still suffers from one of the worst fuel poverty rates in the UK.
Burgess said: “People in Shetland who are struggling to heat their home will see it as a bitter injustice if the islands become a net energy exporter while their bills remain sky-high.
“In that context the proposed Shetland Tariff, which would be an important first step to alleviating fuel poverty, is actually a very modest proposal and the Tory’s refusal to engage on the issue is unsustainable.
“This is an idea that has support from across the political spectrum, including from Alistair Carmichael, and I urge UK Government officials to make urgent progress on this issue.
“Ultimately though, we need to see radical steps to empower communities and support local ownership alongside the expansion of renewables to ensure that people, not distant corporations, see real benefits from the growth of green energy.”
Hjaltland Housing Association, meanwhile, says it is “working hard behind the scenes to help mitigate the impact on their tenants” as energy prices rise.
It said households with a pre-payment meter have seen a rise in the region of 40 per cent over the last four years, further increasing pressure on household budgets and pushing more Shetland families into fuel poverty.
Tapping in to three consecutive national initiatives, the association has helped distribute over £20,000 to their tenants in the last six months alone, with over 230 households referred for financial assistance.
Hjaltland has been working in partnership with Home Energy Scotland, HACT, The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and the Scottish Government, whilst it said it is very grateful for the operational support from the Sound Service Station, the Co-op and the Bolts Post Office.
Hjaltland Housing Association financial inclusion officer Jennifer Laurenson said: “It has been such a difficult year for many of our tenants, and we are delighted to help alleviate some of the financial burden.
“We have received phenomenal feedback from those who benefited from the vouchers, and it can’t be underestimated the impact even a small contribution can have on a family’s disposable income.”
Head of housing and customer services Ian Bray added: “Although we are grateful for the opportunity to support our tenants in this way, we understand this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of eradicating fuel poverty, and the association is committed to working with tenants to improve the energy efficiency in their homes.”
In the meantime, housing tenants can access support from both the association and Shetland’s Citizens Advice Bureau.
Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael recently reminded constituents to switch energy supplier if they can if they are struggling to pay the bills.
It came after supplier Bulb announced it was increasing its price for a second time this year.
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