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Council / Council sticks with original heating options for Sandveien estate

A photo of the Sandveien demolition from last month. Photo: Austin Taylor

AN ATTEMPT to instruct council officials to install district heating to eight houses due to be rebuilt at Sandveien plus more than 160 other homes set to be refurbished in the estate was defeated in the council chamber earlier this week.

Council convener Andrea Manson used her casting vote after councillors could not find a majority on the issue following a 90-minute debate in the council chamber on Wednesday.

It means the SIC will continue with its original plan of using electric heaters for the Sandveien homes but also install back-up plumbing so that district heating could be used at a later date.

Lerwick South councillor Dennis Leask was keen to see district heating installed, arguing that it was the cheapest form of heat available and would therefore address the issues of fuel and child poverty now rather than in the 2030s.

He said if one would ask the tenants at Sandveien they would all vote for district heating.

Councillor Dennis Leask. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

In addition, paying SHEAP – the Shetland Charitable Trust owned company for the energy – would keep millions of pounds circulating in the local economy rather than disappearing south.

His motion was seconded by Robbie McGregor. Several councillors spoke in favour of this, including Liz Peterson who said it was the “perfect opportunity to provide them [the tenants] with cheap heating”, while Moraig Lyall said district heating put a premium to every house that has it.

Depute leader Gary Robinson however argued for the route the council had already embarked on, saying installing modern Quantum storage heaters was not a move against district heating but would allow council officers to keep all the options open.

He also said that electricity prices were set to come down soon and were likely to fall further once the government had de-coupled the wholesale gas price from the cost of electricity.

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Council convener Manson advocated lower energy prices for local residents as part of the campaign for the Shetland tariff.

It all comes after councillors approved a motion in March seeking more information on how the decisions for the heating system for the Sandveien housing estate had arrived at with a suggestion that expanding the district heating network would be a better option.

Around £4.3 million is being invested by the council in four different contracts on its Lerwick housing estate.

SIC depute leader Gary Robinson. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Eight homes have been demolished and will be rebuilt to modern standards, while more than 160 other houses will undergo replacements of kitchens, bathrooms and heating systems over the coming year.

After the replacements have been done the hope is to look at overall energy efficiency of all the Sandveien homes, which were built in the 1970s.

In his report to councillors, head of development Neil Grant advocated the original plan, but he came under some intense and at times critical questioning from councillors.

In his report he said: “This involves little disruption to tenants, no intrusive work and no change to electricity meters or supply tariffs,” the report from development director Neil Grant said.

“Should the future refurbishment programme lead to a decision to change the heating source for the Sandveien properties these Quantum heaters could be reused in other stock so is not an abortive cost.”

In the case of the district heating scheme, which pumps water around Lerwick that is heated from burning rubbish, tenants would endure “significant disruption” as there would need to be extensive work both internally and externally.

Another piece of the jigsaw is the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing 2 (EESSH2) strategy.

This, introduced in 2019, aims for all social housing to have an energy efficiency rating of B, or be as energy efficient as practically possible, by the end of 2032.

A review of EESSH2 is also set to be carried out in 2023 to strengthen the strategy amid a target for net zero heat in houses from 2040, but no funding has yet to be identified for delivering EESSH2.

When it comes to the eight homes being rebuild, the report says that the insulation levels and efficiency of design means that there is no need for significant heating usage – with electric seen as a controllable method which is value for money.

The report concluded: “It would be preferable to have the same heating system for all of the Sandveien houses, which makes the decision on the heating system for the 8 houses which are being demolished and rebuild difficult, coming ahead of the EESSH2 programme works.

“Therefore putting in a system of electrical heaters (new and much more efficient) in line with the rest of the Sandveien housing, and future proofing the eight houses for alternative heating sources puts us in the best position of being open to all potential heating systems in the future EESSH2 review, and keeps all options open during the EESSH2 review.”

Meanwhile, Shetland Heat Energy & Power (SHEAP) confirmed that it has enough capacity to extend its network into the Sandveien housing estate.

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