Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken out this week in a parliamentary debate on community energy, calling for consideration of such community schemes for the isles in order to reduce fuel poverty. During the debate Mr Carmichael highlighted the challenge in convincing government agencies to back community energy schemes, in which locally-controlled companies could generate and sell back energy, and noted the current issues for the isles in making use of over-generation of renewable energy.
Speaking in the debate, Mr Carmichael said:
“I fear that much of the difficulty that we will encounter in promoting this case will be found along Millbank in Ofgem, which has never been an enthusiast for this sort of diversity in the market. In the Northern Isles, we have the highest rate of fuel poverty anywhere in the country. We already produce more clean electricity from renewable sources than we can use. We do not have the opportunity of exporting that to the transmission grid, so I am happy to offer us up as an early testbed for community energy.”
Responding, the leader of the debate Wera Hobhouse MP said:
“If I were the Government, I would happily take up that offer. It is about the surplus energy that can go back into the community. If we look at the crisis in the energy market and the fact that people will probably face higher prices, anyway, the Government’s argument that there might be unintended consequences, particularly around price, has proven not to be the case. It will ultimately become cheaper if we go along the lines of community energy.”
Reacting after the debate, Mr Carmichael said:
“Whatever solutions we reach on community energy and leveraging the isles’ enormous energy potential, the objective must be to reduce fuel poverty for islanders. By one method or another we need to see an “isles tariff” so that the benefits of energy projects sited here are also felt here, in warmer homes across our communities. We have not been devoid of opportunity in the isles as a consequence of our role as an energy hub, but fuel poverty has been a glaring gap in those opportunities – now is past time to resolve this blight on local families.”