The crippling costs of heating our homes in Scotland, and in particular in Orkney, is a shocking condemnation of the way power is supplied to our homes and businesses.
On Monday, 17th January Scotland’s waters were auctioned off for the development of off shore wind farms. Winners & Losers: Scotland Leases Out Its Seas And in Orkney we produce well over our own needs in renewable power, mostly through wind generation.
That is all to do with the generation of electricity.
Whilst we can generate enough for our needs through renewables in Orkney – our problem comes with the supply.
Orkney, like many parts of Scotland, does not have access to the UK Gas Grid. To heat homes, many householders still have oil and a few use other types of material: coal/peat/wood. The main form of heating, lighting and cooking is from electricity.
THAW Orkney is a charity which supports people struggling with paying those essential bills, giving invaluable advice on how to manage their household electricity. They also work with other community organisations so that help and support is delivered to those who need it. “I have never, ever looked back” – David Mowat, Shapinsay
THAW Orkney, at this time of unprecedented need is facing a funding crisis. Manager of THAW Orkney, Robert Leslie, spoke to The Orkney News.
“Our core funding beyond 31st March has been put into serious doubt due to changes in the way the Warm Home Discount is administered in the UK, specifically on how the Scottish Government wants to spend it compared to how the UK Government has been spending it.
“It means that our current funders, the British Gas Energy Trust, says it won’t be able to fund its three projects in Scotland, including us, beyond March 31st.
“Coming at a time of growing demand, which is only likely to increase, this isn’t an ideal time to be seeking alternative core funding and to contemplate not being able to continue supporting an increasing number of folk needing help.
“We have been in touch with a number of MSPs to see if they can get some clarity on the situation between the UK Government and the Scottish Government.
“We have seen a huge increase in demand, and consequently the level of support we have been able to give folk, over the past couple of months.
“I recently compared what we distributed between 1st November 2020 to 6th January 2021, and 1st November 2021 to 6th January 2022. In terms of emergency energy support, Cosy Home Packs and Warm Home Discount secured for clients, the total for the 2020-21 period came to £9800.
“For the same period 2021-22, the total is £16,950, so a 73% increase in demand for that kind of support.
“The overall financial gains secured for clients over these two periods was £28,294 for 2020-21 and £57,794 for the same period just now.
“We had 104 clients in that period last year and 140 this year. Bearing in mind that 2020-21 was already an exceptional year due to the pandemic. The step change in demand this year indicates the impact of recent electricity price rises, with further increases to come in April.
“There is going to be massive demand for support and, on top of the funds to which we already have access, we have just been awarded over £40,000 of Scottish Government flexible funding through OIC that we will be spending in various ways to support folk before the end of the financial year, but this is all sticking plaster solutions.
“Longer term solutions are needed in the face of the likely increases folk will face.”
All of this comes at a time when many families are being hit hard by the UK Government removing the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit, a cut that was opposed by all three devolved nations. In December it was confirmed that inflation had risen to 5.1% – the highest rate in a decade – with increasingly expensive food, transport and clothing contributing to higher household bills.
In 2020, renewable electricity generated in Scotland was equivalent to 95.9% of gross electricity consumption.
Related story: Winners & Losers: Scotland Leases Out Its Seas