SIC considers new green fund to boost small businesses

A council fund of £400,000 aimed at helping small businesses and other organisations in the isles to improve their energy efficiency looks set to be created.

Councillors will be asked to approve the new grant scheme, which small and medium enterprises will be eligible to apply for, at Thursday’s meeting of the development committee. The exceptions are the agriculture and fisheries sectors, for which separate funding streams exist.

An application for additional money from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of £267,000 has also been submitted to supplement the fund. The applicants themselves will be expected to contribute a further £285,000 meaning almost £1 million could be spent on greening the electricity use of commerce and industry.

If the scheme is approved, it would allow the SIC to offer assistance of up to 70 per cent on projects which will “reduce operational costs and maximise energy efficiency” so that businesses “remain sustainable and competitive whilst reducing their carbon footprint”.

A report from economic development unit officer Maurice Henderson identifies a demand for funding assistance from firms which are deterred by the high capital costs associated with installing renewable energy technologies which makes it “impossible” for some to consider switching away from fossil fuels “despite the long-term gains that will be made”.

The scheme would be targeted particularly at “fragile” rural areas and would look primarily at technologies like wind power, solar water heating and heat pumps. Mr Henderson suggests that 10 firms and three social enterprises could be assisted during the scheme’s two-year duration.

Benefits, the report continues, would include protecting businesses suffering from high energy costs in the isles against fluctuating and rising fuel and electricity prices: “The scheme will be a good promoter of the benefits of green energy and will be a major step in developing a renewable energy sector in Shetland.”

According to government figures published last week, electricity for industrial and commercial use in Shetland accounted for 51,000 tonnes of carbon being emitted into the atmosphere during 2007, a slight drop of 4,000 tonnes on 2005.


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