Letters: “Independence is solution to electricity inequity”

Dear Orkney News,

I see Alistair Carmichael attempting to take credit, along with Beatrice Wishart, for getting UK energy regulator Ofgem to look at the cases of Orkney and Shetland residents who are having trouble switching their electricity suppliers due to the kind of meter they have.

I can only think that the Lib Dem duo pushed at an open door, as Ofgem has been inviting consumers to get in touch with them on this issue via their website since at least early November, having already agreed to extend the Restricted Meter Remedy until 2025.

This remedy is supposed to allow electricity customers to switch to a single rate tariff regardless of the kind of meter they have, including multi-rate tariffs such as Total Heating Total Control. In practice, it isn’t working well and isn’t well known about, and energy advisors across the Highlands and Islands have been attempting to raise its profile over the past few months. The assistance of elected representatives is welcome to this end, as it is vital that this remedy works for electricity customers here, who pay the highest prices in the UK, despite living in an area that generates more clean, green electricity than folk here can use.

Also, while I share Mr Carmichael’s welcome of the expansion of the Warm Home Discount (WHD), a UK government scheme that provides an annual £140 rebate to customers at risk of fuel poverty, I am afraid the scheme falls well short of a solution to fuel poverty. Like emergency electricity vouchers that are currently being dished out to vulnerable consumers, the WHD is a sticking plaster solution from an energy system that isn’t fit for purpose.

A recent report on WHD found that 42% of the rural fuel poor households, which would include Orkney, did not qualify for the £140 payment due to the eligibility criteria. It is also arguable that Orkney electricity customers paying up to 15.31p per unit to heat their homes, compared to folk paying 4p for mains gas,should receive a much higher level of Warm Home Discount to give some kind of parity.

In short – and this is something that our Lib Dem representatives need to recognise – too many of the policies and regulations around our electricity system are reserved to Westminster. In its update to the Climate Change Plan announced earlier in December, the Scottish Government highlights how ‘two of the key levers needed to release Scotland’s further renewable energy potential – electricity policy and regulation – are reserved. This means that achieving our targets critically depends on the UK government taking the right decisions and actions and acting urgently’. It also states that ‘many of the levers needed to ensure a fair distribution of costs and access to smarter energy systems are reserved to the UK’.

On the evidence of Westminster listening to Scottish requests for more powers to be devolved, I won’t hold my breath.

The only effective way to ensure that electricity prices and policy are fair for Orkney folk is to vote for me and the SNP in the Scottish Parliament elections next May. Any other vote is one for prolonged inequity and fuel poverty.

Yours sincerely, Robert Leslie, Orkney

Robert Leslie has been selected to stand as the SNP candidate in the Scottish Elections in May 2021

3 replies »

  1. Then you have the absurd position of Scottish electricity producers being charged to access the National Grid, and, despite the fact that we export electricity to England (around 20% last time I looked) and are awash with energy, we pay some of the highest rates in the UK (with island communities getting the worst of that treatment).

    We are paying for England’s inability to supply itself, partially caused by not-in-my-backyard policies regarding renewables, and partially by neglect and lack of investment in the National Grid itself – both of those in the control of Westminster not Scotland.

  2. Unfortunately the people in Orkney seem to be joined at the hip with the liberals and I truly do not understand them, they are a modern forward looking people who persist in the backward thinking ideas of the UK and think anyone voting for independence is wrong in the head, this is so sad and I hope it is altering now, I wouldnt have left if I hadnt been treated with disdain from some councillors if I expressed my views

  3. The Scottish government has stated that its aim is to make the country a world leader in renewables and in so doing will create thousands of new jobs.
    Unfortunately most of the wind farm companies that are building the turbines are European (mainly Scandinavian) and not Scottish. Why it doesn’t stipulate that the work should go to Scottish firms is beyond me?
    Perhaps now that Brexit is done, they can concentrate on growing our own industry and businesses.

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