Tackling Fuel Poverty in Orkney: Have Your Say

Orkney has the highest rate of fuel poverty in Scotland at 63% and yet all around us we see wind turbines birling in the almost constant wind that wheechts across our islands. It is really quite an illogical situation where a community which produces over 100% of its electricity needs has this shocking rate of fuel poverty.

Many houses in Orkney are drafty letting the wind find its way into every nook and crannie. Due to our Northerly geographical location we also have to pay the highest electricity tariff on the power we use because of the way the National Grid sets its charges. And into that add in that most houses in Orkney rely almost entirely on electricity or a mixture of electricity and oil heating.

Percentage of houses with no central heating

percentage without central heating

% of houses with no central heating (Source: Scotland’s Census 2011)

“A household is in fuel poverty if it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income (including Housing Benefit or Income Support for Mortgage Interest) on all household fuel use.” (Scottish Executive, 2002).

For many of our  elderly in Orkney they are in the category of extreme fuel poverty with 20% of their income going to heat their houses.

The Scottish Government defines an ‘adequate standard of warmth’ to be 21°C in the living room and 18°C in other rooms for a period of 9 hours in every 24 (or 16 in 24 over the weekend), with 2 hours being in the morning and 7 hours in the evening. For elderly and infirm households, a higher standard temperature of 23° C in the living room and 18° C in other rooms is required to be achieved for 16 hours in every 24.

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 required the Scottish Government to eradicate fuel poverty by November 2016 “so far as reasonably practicable” (National Archives, 2001). Successive Scottish Governments of all political complexions have failed to achieve this. The Act also required Ministers to publish regular statements detailing the measures they have introduced to tackle fuel poverty.

Orkney Islands Council have published a draft strategy for tackling fuel poverty and they are looking for your views to help inform their final policy.  In Orkney where wages are on average much lower than the rest of Scotland rates of fuel poverty will only increase as electricity bills go up.

Average Orkney Household Income

Orkney household income

Average Orkney household income (Source: CACI PayCheck data 2015.)

The aim of the OIC fuel poverty strategy is:

“to reduce Orkney’s level of fuel poverty to the national average by 2022 and fully eradicate fuel poverty in Orkney by 2032.”

The key aims of the Strategy to help meet the objective of eradicating fuel poverty by
2032 are:

•To lobby the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments to improve the ‘Island Proofing’ of energy efficiency and fuel poverty policy.
• To enhance impartial locally based energy efficiency advice and information.
• To enhance energy efficiency upgrade programmes for domestic properties.
•To improve partnership working between fuel poverty agencies / service providers.
• To support the development of a local electricity tariff and a service to help
facilitate households switching to more suitable electricity tariffs.
• To maximise the use of Orkney’s renewable energy generation to help tackle fuel

Help both with advice and of a practical nature can be found in Orkney from

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

The draft strategy is available from the OIC website . If you wish to respond to it send an email to housing@orkney.gov.uk , phone 01856873535 extension 2172 or write to Housing Services, Council Offices, School Place, Kirkwall, KW15 1NY.

Other information: SPICe Fuel Poverty in Scotland 18th February 2016

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