Island council helping cut annual bills.

An island council has become the first in Scotland to team up with an electricity supplier to help its local residents and businesses cut their annual bills.

The Western Isles suffer from the highest rates of fuel poverty in Scotland, with over 70% of all households deemed to be spending too much of their income simply on keeping warm.

The situation in the islands, where they experience long winters and many reside in ageing croft houses, is further exacerbated by a lack of competition, with many having to rely on Scottish and Southern Energy, one of the much-criticised “Big Six” that dominate the marketplace.

But help could be at hand, with the launch of “Hebrides Energy” on March 6. It is a partnership between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) and Our Power, a not-for-profit energy supplier based in Edinburgh.

It is estimated that the lower tariff could result in an annual saving of over £400 to the average island household.

Economic development officer Anne Murray said: “While a small number of local authorities in England have either launched their own energy supply company or entered into partnerships with licensed suppliers, the comhairle is the first local authority in Scotland to have progressed to this stage either in a partnership or as a stand-alone initiative.”

She said that while there would be significant savings from the outset for consumers the intention is for Hebrides Energy to source electricity from local generation as that is “ultimately where substantive savings could be derived from”.

“In order to begin looking at this, consultancy firm Ricardo have been appointed to undertake a short scoping study to explore shared ownership opportunities in the pipeline of island renewable energy schemes, within the context of how local energy can be used to impact on electricity prices for island customers,” she said.

Norman MacLeod, chair of the Hebridean Housing Partnerhsip, said they will be urging all the tenants in their 2,200 properties to sign up with Hebrides Energy after March 6th. “We will give them any assistance we can in order to help them reduce their electricity costs,” he said.