By JOHN ROBERTSON
LERWICK’S district heating scheme is saving at least £3 million a year from being pocketed by companies down south, the scheme’s manager Neville Martin said this week.
He calculates that the 960 customers save around £1m a year on their bills, the community earns another £1m from selling heat and hundreds of thousands of pounds are saved through expensive boilers and other heating plant not having to be bought and maintained in buildings. Work valued at £600,000 a year is also generated from connecting and plumbing in new properties.
The scheme is going from strength to strength and despite a 23 per cent hike in charges announced this week it remains a much cheaper source of domestic heating than electricity and half the price of using heating oil. The tariff will rise to 4.2p per kilowatt-hour from 1st October due largely to the high cost of oil which has to be burnt at peak winter periods or when the council’s incinerator is out of action.
As well as being the only utility under local control, Mr Martin said Shetland Heat Energy and Power’s (Sheap) scheme will save Shetland importing over 4,500 tonnes of oil and coal this year and means 13,600 tonnes less carbon dioxide polluting the atmosphere.
Mr Martin told Shetland Charitable Trust on Wednesday: “This is where the UK government should be pricking up its ears and saying ‘We should be having more of this’.”
Of the 960 properties piped in to the system, 850 are houses and the other 110 are businesses and public buildings such as the schools, hospital and Clickimin Centre. The scheme has cost the trust some £13m to reach the position it is in today. In the last financial year it made a profit of £226,000.
Mr Martin said: “The long-term investment in district heating is producing dividends greater than envisaged when the decision to proceed with the project was taken over 11 years ago. November will see the 10th anniversary of the first house coming on line in Leslie Road. Next year should see the 1,000th customer connected.”
While Lerwick basks in cheap heat, the rest of Shetland is stuck with soaring heating bills. Sheap has a host of ideas to start mini-heating schemes in rural parts but none has come to fruition yet. The first is likely to be in Mid Yell and will include power from a wind turbine.
Another future possibility is Scalloway to tie in with Hjaltland Housing Association’s plan to build 138 houses at Utnabrake. Proposals have also been sketched for Aith, Symbister, Brae and Sandwick.
New sources of heat being considered include the SCOMI plant at Greenhead which extracts oil from offshore drill cuttings, wind turbines at the dump, refrigerators at the Shetland Catch factory, burning wood pallets, importing wood pellets and even pumping surplus heat into the rock below ground for recovery in winter via heat pumps.
Trustees at Wednesday’s meeting agreed to a request to increase investment in the Lerwick heating scheme from £250,000 to £650,000 this year plus £450,000 next year and £350,000 in 2010/11. This year’s extra money will go on replacing coolers at the energy recovery plant and to connect more people who are on the waiting list.