Shetland has been granted £820,000 to tackle fuel poverty and carbon reduction in 2014/15 from the Scottish government’s home energy scheme.
A meeting of the council’s environment and transport committee heard on Monday that people in Shetland are spending more on their heating bills than anywhere else in Scotland, and grants worth up to £7,500 could be available for work including insulation and draught-proofing.
However, this will only be applied to private houses in the council tax bands A, B, and C, which covers 80 per cent of Shetland homes. Priority will be given to those in receipt of benefits, terminally ill, disabled or pensioners, or families with young children.
Householders in council tax bands D and above will not be eligible for grants, but they can have a full Green Deal survey costing £150.
Senior council official Carl Symons said he would like to see the grant scheme extended to take in more council tax bands, and especially to help the “working poor”. He recognised that many Shetland households in fuel poverty cannot receive government benefits, being just above the threshold, although their situation may be more critical than those on benefits.
He said: “The working poor and fuel poverty is an issue … people can only afford to heat part of their house but don’t qualify for any benefits because they’re working.”
The funding allocated is part of a 10-year programme. In 2013/14, a government fund of £400,000 helped more than 50 private households with energy efficiency measures.
The meeting heard that the biggest problem in implementing the scheme would be lack of local labour – local contractors being preferred to using contractors from the mainland, although this might have to be explored.
Team leader Mary Lisk said there are about 400 households on the waiting list, and local contractors will have to be “upskilled” to carry out the work in the necessary timeframe. It is hoped that 130 homes will be done this year.
Mr Symons said that competition for contractors, especially in the mechanical and electrical sectors, is “fierce” because of competition from the oil and gas industries.