Orkney: 120% Renewables Energy Production & The Highest Rates of Fuel Poverty

Orkney produces 120% of its energy needs through renewables. It is also a major international testing site for new developments particularly in marine renewables.

From Sunday 27th to Monday 28th of June the Scottish Affairs committee from the House of Commons was in the islands to visit the EMEC tidal testing centre which is the only tidal test centre for marine renewable energy in the world.

The committee was taking evidence which will go to inform their ‘Renewable Energy in Scotland‘ inquiry. This is part of the run up to COP26, the climate change conference organised by the United Nations which this year will be hosted by the city of Glasgow.

The Scottish Affairs Committee has posted on its website the following:

This inquiry is likely to examine: 

  • how ‘net-zero’ targets can be met by development of renewable energy in Scotland;
  • the technologies that would best serve Scotland and how challenges in their development can be overcome;
  • employment potential of renewables in Scotland and how a ‘just transition’ for oil and gas workers can be achieved; and
  • how the UK and Scottish Governments can work together to reach their green goals

What you don’t see on that list is anything about addressing the inequalities that are built into our Energy sector.

What kind of a future are we going to have where our landscapes, seascapes and natural resources are developed for profit but ignoring the needs of many who cannot afford to heat their homes to a liveable standard ?

The UK MPs on their visit to Orkney went to see the EMEC test centre and other developments in the islands.

The Orkney News also had the opportunity to interview three members of the committee and put to them Orkney’s appalling fuel poverty statistics. There is a link to the interview at the end of this article.

L to R MPs Pete Wishart, Andrew Bowie, Wendy Chamberlain

Chair of the committee Pete Wishart stated that the purpose of the committee was to look at the developments and opportunities of renewables , not to examine the issue of fuel poverty which he accepted was a problem.

Last week HomeStart Orkney published a shocking report on Housing and Heating in Orkney. It quotes one family who were forced to live in one room because that was all they could afford to heat.

Rising electricity costs, which include a 22% carbon tax, in islands that ironically produce 120% of their energy needs through renewables, are leading to real hardship in Orkney for many islanders. Orkney is a low wage economy and the pandemic, with many workers being furloughed and some even losing their jobs, has made the situation even worse.

Many people have to choose between heating and eating. Robert Leslie of the charity THAW, has described some of the situations the organisation had to provide support for last winter, as shocking.

The Nobel Prize Summit, Our Planet, Our Future‘, which we covered in The Orkney News, poses the question “What can we achieve together in this decade to put the world on a path to a more sustainable, more prosperous future for all?

Just like the Scottish Affairs Committee it is also feeding into COP26 but unlike the MPs, the Nobel Prize laureates see equality as central to the call to action they have published.

The first Nobel Prize Summit comes amid a global pandemic, amid a crisis of inequality, amid an ecological crisis, amid a climate crisis, and amid an information crisis. These supranational crises are interlinked and threaten the enormous gains we have made in human progress

Statement 3rd June

The urgency in the statement from the Nobel laureates is clear with the need to take action to address the climate emergency we are experiencing. Developing renewables is essential if we are to do this but it cannot be done by also ignoring the inequalities built into the Grid system we have in the UK.

The laureates call for a transformation:

An essential foundation for this transformation is to address destabilizing inequalities in the world. Without transformational action this decade, humanity is taking colossal risks with our common future. Societies risk large-scale, irreversible changes to Earth’s biosphere and our lives as part of it.

Developing our renewables in Orkney, or anywhere else, has to go in tandem with eliminating the inequalities in a system where the places that produce the energy pay the highest prices to use it.

Energy is a power retained in Westminster. The Scottish Parliament can mitigate the effects of fuel poverty and it can support with limited funding projects that develop the renewables sector.

What it cannot do, because it can only be done by the UK Parliament, is overhaul an energy supply system that does not serve the needs of our communities. We will never be rid of fuel poverty whilst the people of Orkney are exporting energy south to buy it back at ever increasing rates.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

3 replies »

  1. Given this situation, so succinctly put in the article, “Rising electricity costs, which include a 22% carbon tax, in islands that ironically produce 120% of their energy needs through renewables, are leading to real hardship in Orkney for many islanders.”, the answers in the interview to the question about fuel poverty were lacklustre to say the least. I can’t see how more jobs in the renewables sector in Orkney will help our pensioners pay their outrageously high electric heating bills.
    Orkney should be exempt from the carbon tax to reflect how much renewable electricity we export and the cost per unit should be no more than the average for the whole of the UK rather than the higher rate we all have to pay.

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