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Housing association working towards affordable warmth as Orkney remains top of fuel poverty league table

OHAL is making its homes more energy efficient.

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New figures estimate that 59% of households in Orkney are fuel poor, the highest of any area in Scotland, and equivalent to approximately 6,000 households in the islands.

Despite the drop in the Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS) figures from the previous figure of 63%, Orkney remains top of Scotland’s fuel poverty league table, ahead of Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles) on 56%, Highland on 52% and Shetland on 50%. It is estimated that 83% of older households in Orkney – those with one or two members where at least one is 65 or over – are fuel poor.

While the SHCS survey states that an estimated 59% of social housing tenants are in fuel poverty, the latest independent survey for Orkney Housing Association (OHAL), from 2016, gave a figure of 69%.

In contrast, the estimated figure for fuel poverty in Scotland is 31%, or approximately 747,000 households.

OHAL Energy Officer Robert Leslie said that, although it was a small move in the right direction, no one in Orkney could take any comfort from the reduction in the fuel poverty rate, with much work still to be done.

Mr Leslie explained that the association was working towards making its older homes more energy efficient in line with Scottish Government targets for 2020, with heating system upgrades and loft insulation top-ups among the works taking place. Homes in Kirkwall, Stromness, South Ronaldsay, and Rendall have already had upgrades, with other developments in St Andrews, Stenness and Hoy about to have new heating fitted. Over the past three financial years, OHAL has utilised Scottish Government grants, loans and its own funds to carry out these works. By the end of this financial year, the association will have spent approximately £420,000 on energy efficiency works to 112 properties.

Mr Leslie said:

“We are working towards meeting the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing targets, which have seen us increasing the energy ratings of properties across the county, with several other areas due to be upgraded over the next couple of years.

“However, with the cost of electricity having increased significantly last year, we are aware that increasing the energy efficiency of our homes is only one factor in improving the situation for tenants. Other ways we can help lift folk out of fuel poverty and provide them with affordable warmth include giving information on tariff switching services and alternative tariffs for some older meter types.

“I’m also available to help with energy advice on a one-to-one basis, or to assist with any issues tenants may have with energy suppliers. We have recently been able to help secure significant debt reductions for a number of tenants through SSE’s Electric Heating Fund, for example. We also have a close relationship with the local fuel poverty charity THAW Orkney, who can sometimes provide additional support and advice.”

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