Editorial

Energy Crisis: Does It Have To Be This Way In Orkney?

Producing over 100% of its own energy needs through renewables, mostly wind, in Orkney we pay the most to buy back our own electricity. Why? And is there a solution?

On Thursday 20th of October, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, held the second summit meeting with energy company representatives and consumer organisations on what can be done in Scotland to limit the impact of the energy price hike.

The new Chancellor of the UK, Jeremy Hunt, this week reversed the Government’s pledge of an Energy Price Guarantee. “65% of older people plan to use less heating this winter”

The Scottish Energy Summit agreed to do the following:

  • The Scottish Government will work with Energy UK and other organisations to increase smart meter coverage in Scotland, with a particular focus on rural areas
  • partners will share data with the Scottish Government to help inform calls upon the UK Government, to provide clarity on continued support for domestic and non-domestic consumers as soon as possible
  • The Scottish Government will work with the business sector to explore how businesses can be supported with energy costs, within our devolved powers
  • ensuring maximum coordination of energy efficiency information and advice services to all consumers

And yes, this is very limited. It is quite simply only the UK Government which can take the measures necessary to prevent even more people struggling with their energy bills and plunging into fuel poverty.

Claims by Tory politicians that this is the same worldwide are completely wrong. Whilst there are many countries suffering an energy crisis it is because they import their energy. Their supplies come from outwith their own lands. What is different with Scotland, and Orkney in particular, is that we do produce enough energy – but then export it into the National Grid – only to buy it back at the most expensive rates there are.

Recently The Orkney News published a piece by fuel poverty campaigner and expert Robert Leslie: Nationalising Energy: The Quebec Example.

Quebec is the largest province in Canada with an area of 1,542,056 km2 ((527,079 sq mi). It has vast supplies of fresh water. It has used these immense water resources to produce Hydro Electric Power which is delivered by the nationalised company HydroQuebec.

Unlike the UK where there is a variable rate you pay – with Scotland, and in particular the Highlands and Islands, paying the highest rates – in Quebec it is one set universal rate. Wherever you live you pay the same rate for your energy.

And the price you pay is equivalent to 7p per KWh. So cheap that they are concerned that people don’t try to find ways to save how much energy they use.

Can you imagine how much less suffering there would be in Orkney, both for households and for businesses, if we were not paying these exorbitant rates to buy back our own energy from Companies who are making obscene profits ? What a tremendous boost our islands economy would have.

Last week we also saw a complete power outage in Shetland when a subsea cable was cut. Exporting all our energy also means our supply is vulnerable – and there cannot be a household or business in Orkney which has not experienced a power cut at some time.

What we need in Orkney is a localised energy supply. We need councillors with the vision and ambition to do this and to work together with the energy expertise we already have in the islands to produce a localised Orkney energy strategy. They need to look forward to an Energy Independent Orkney.

In this piece: Time to regain control of our electric future?, Robert Leslie said:

“It is time to consider local ownership of the electricity grid, so that the main consideration when looking at the future development is the long-term benefit for the whole community, rather than short-term shareholder dividends.

Now – as we continue to wait for a new interconnector to provide more export capacity, and as skyrocketing electricity costs cause real economic and social harm to the people of Orkney rather than creating prosperity – seems as good a time as any to reinvigorate the spirit of Tom Johnston.

Image credit Martin Laird

Fiona Grahame

1 reply »

  1. Of course there is a solution, stop sending it down to Englands grid and lets find away to use it in Orkney after all you can now save solar power in batteries, maybe we could do the same with wind