Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has highlighted islander frustrations in securing engineers for boiler and meter installations in a debate on heating rural homes this week. Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday evening, Mr Carmichael noted the reduction in access to local skilled labour to install energy meters and other needs due to the “stick” of tighter requirements and a lack of incentives to boost uptake.
Speaking in the House Mr Carmichael said:
“The point he makes illustrates well what happens when Government intervene to set targets and to insist that things must be done by a certain deadline. We see that time and again. I can tell him and others now that one of the biggest problems will be the lack of available skilled, qualified labour in rural areas and in other places to install the equipment for these things.
“Would it not be better if on this occasion we were to use a little more of the carrot and a little less of the stick?”
Responding, Sir Bill Wiggin MP said:
“He is right. It is as though he has read my speech because I will touch on the shortage of qualified technicians. One of the problems that we face is that, by insisting on one technology, all those various engineers who can do different things are being forced to do the same thing and, of course, that is far from practical or ideal.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“Government policies to improve energy efficiency and bring bills down are all to the good. Too often, however, these schemes are developed in a one-size-fits-all manner – and the fit is for big cities rather than for rural and island communities with the worst fuel poverty rates.
“Whether it is access to engineers or basic fairness on heating costs, something has clearly gone wrong in how the government manages the energy market. Until we see root and branch reform of the energy network that takes into account the different needs of rural communities these issues will come up time and again. Now is the time for de-centralisation – the government needs to get the ball rolling.”