Western Isles householders currently paying above average prices for electricity can now benefit from fairer tariffs thanks to a community-led scheme launched today (Tuesday March 6th).
Hebrides Energy, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company led by key local agencies including Tighean Innse Gall, Hebridean Housing Partnership, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, The Stornoway Trust and Community Energy Scotland, is teaming up with existing Scottish “Fairer Energy” supplier Our Power to promote a range of new Hebridean Tariffs to the local market.
It is hoped that the savings offered by Our Power, in partnership with Hebrides Energy, will represent a key step to curb fuel poverty, which now sees nearly 60% of Island homes struggling to afford energy bills.
The range of new tariffs on offer will cater for both Standard and Restricted meter customers, meaning that virtually every island home can opt to join. Any profits will be plied back into the company’s mission to tackle fuel poverty.
Hebrides Energy Chairman Carola Bell said: “This is a first-of-its-kind venture for the islands and the team at Hebrides Energy has worked long and hard to get this far. It’s a great pleasure to be working with Our Power, with their proven track record and positive, community-centred ethos, and we hope that many islanders can benefit from the new tariffs on offer.
“People living on the edge of the UK have all too often been penalized by higher fuel prices and many aren’t aware that they are free to switch supplier,” she added. “Hopefully this scheme will help to highlight this big industry issue and encourage people to think about how they pay for energy, where their money is going and how they can help their community move towards a more sustainable future.”
Our Power, in partnership with Hebrides Energy, offers clearly defined tariffs at competitive rates, promising savings as well as a good ethical choice. It is anticipated that some islanders could save as much as 20% on their electricity bills.
Switching to a Hebrides Energy tariff is a short and simple process online or by phone and there are no exit fees for those who wishing to return to their original energy provider.
The company provides options for consumers on Standard or Economy 7 meters and also offers the new Hebridean “Take Control” tariff, a first of its kind alternative for customers on restricted meter tariffs including many Social Housing Tenants and households that rely on night storage heating. The partnership will also actively encourage the installation of smart meters so that consumers can keep close tabs on energy use.
Our Power is a UK not-for–profit energy supplier owned by social housing providers, community organisations and local authorities. It was set up to provide customers with a fairer way to buy the energy they need. Its mission is to make household energy more affordable and greener for all energy customers, whilst helping those who are at risk of fuel poverty or on lower incomes. It sources electricity on the wholesale electricity market, bypassing the traditional ‘Big Six’ suppliers.
Councillor Donald Crichton, Chairman of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Sustainable Development Committee, said: “The Comhairle is delighted that we have been able to support Hebrides Energy to get to this stage. Our Power’s social mission and competitive tariffs are a great match for our aspirations to tackle fuel poverty, and we hope that local households will be encouraged to take the first steps in switching energy supplier.”
Alister Steele, who chairs Our Power, said: “We are delighted to have teamed up with Hebrides Energy in what is a ground breaking approach to energy supply in Scotland. We look forward to a relationship that lasts and makes a positive impact on local energy costs.
“People in islands are treated unfairly by traditional energy suppliers because of where they live, how they choose to pay and the type of tariff they are offered. Many people don’t realise this is happening. As a not for profit supplier we do things differently.
“It not uncommon these days for people to have to choose between heating and eating and that is something that has to stop.”
Norman MacLeod, who chairs Hebridean Housing Partnership, said: “HHP as part of the Hebridean Energy Ltd are delighted that a cheaper energy scheme will shortly be available to all residents in the Outer Hebrides and especially to our tenants and the many elderly persons who currently have to limit the use in heating their homes due to the higher energy costs applied by the larger six supply companies. We should acknowledge all the work that has been done at a local level to achieve this better deal for these Islands.”
A spokesman for Tighean Innse Gall, said: “TIG are the local energy advice service covering the Western Isles, offering impartial support and advice on switching energy company. Switching can seem like a scary and confusing process, however TIG staff will be here to help people through the process, so they can choose the tariff that’s right for them.”
Isles MSP Alasdair Allan (SNP) said: “It’s good to see so many organisations working together in the islands to help address one of the islands’ biggest problems – fuel poverty. Anything that makes the islands a more affordable place to live over the winter has to be a good thing. I hope that this initiative will show other scattered rural communities in Scotland that there are practical ways for people to help keep winter fuel bills down.”
Hebrides Energy hopes that it might one day become a supply company in its own right, selling renewable energy generated locally, and helping the islands move towards a sustainable future.