Shetland has a “great opportunity” to reduce fuel poverty, cut carbon emissions and improve its housing stock, after investment of almost £11 million over two years was provisionally agreed with the Scottish government and the energy company npower.
The money will be spent on insulation and other energy efficiency measures, and will be available both for private and council housing.
It was announced last month that the Scottish government was offering Shetland £440,000 a year towards tackling fuel poverty and cutting energy usage. But a further scheme organised by the UK government now promises an even larger payout for the isles.
The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) requires the six largest energy suppliers to assist in reducing carbon emissions and energy usage across the country. Council officials contacted all of these companies in February to ask whether any would support a project in Shetland, and npower have now confirmed they are willing to allocate up to £5million per annum for the islands during the current and the next financial year.
This money can be used towards loft, cavity wall and underfloor insulation; draught-proofing; heat pumps; replacing inefficient boilers; replacing single with double glazing; and a wide range of other measures. Training of council staff and local contractors will also be required.
While priority will be given to those considered to be most in need, anyone will be able to apply to the scheme and have their home assessed.
The chairman of the council’s environment and transport committee Allan Wishart described the funding as “really exciting” for the islands.
“This is a great opportunity for Shetland to improve the standard of its housing stock” he said, “whether it’s private or council stock. With that sort of money we should be able to do a lot of improvements.
“One of the reasons [that this is important] of course is that Shetland is high on the league table when it comes to fuel poverty, and I think this is a great opportunity to make inroads into reducing that.”
Mr Wishart said he was “very anxious” that the project moved ahead as quickly as possible.
“There’s a lot of work attached to this” he said, “in terms of managing it and bringing the Green Deal inspectors up to scratch to get their certification.
“Also, there’s a lot of interest from local contractors to be part of this – I think it’s critical to have local people involved. I also hope the whole bureaucracy is kept to a minimum, both for those who apply and for the council people who will administer it.”
According to a report put before the committee this week, training for the scheme could begin as early as the end of this month, and the first work on housing could start during the summer.