2040 sees a much-changed energy ecosystem for the Outer Hebrides which better meets local needs and utilises the world class energy resources and pioneering communities of the region. Current strengths of the Islands such as community ownership and energy innovation have been retained whilst dramatic progress has been made on energy issues that have hampered local development, such as inconsistent stakeholder collaboration, limited grid resilience, grid constraints and fuel poverty.

By 2040, fuel poverty in the Outer Hebrides has, as far as is reasonably practicable, been eradicated following several technical, social, policy and behavioural interventions; making the islands an attractive place to live and for business to operate. Energy-related supply chains, involving installers, materials suppliers, and contractors, have been strengthened, creating a significant number of local, green jobs.
The local electricity grid is “smart”, resilient and responsive due to integration with new technologies for managing, generating and storing energy. There is greater use of smart metering in households and businesses and local network monitoring by the DSO.

Healthy collaboration across energy stakeholders within academic, public, private, community and environmental sectors continues in 2040. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar continues to play a key supportive role for energy projects, having been central in establishing a Regional Energy Consortium and supporting its management to facilitate collaboration on energy projects, foster greater local engagement with energy and develop Hebrides Energy, a local energy supply company (ESCo). 

The urgency of the need

Fuel Poverty has been a widespread and pervasive problem across the Outer Hebrides for many years. The Scottish House Condition Survey (2017-19)1 reported a fuel poverty rate of 40% in the Outer Hebrides compared to the average in Scotland of 24%. The region also had significantly higher extreme fuel poverty rates, 24%, double the national average of 12%. Although wider factors have contributed to this issue, examining the three key causes of Fuel Poverty offer some explanation as to why the regions suffers so greatly.

  1. The energy efficiency of properties
  2. The cost of energy
  3. Household income

With the current rapid increase in energy prices, the incidence of fuel poverty in the region is set to increase and will have a dramatic impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of the Outer Hebrides.  In addition, there is significant local generation of energy in the region, the majority of which is renewable electricity which is sold to the National Grid and transported to the UK mainland. This pilot project hopes to reduce energy costs for local people by utilising locally generated energy to provide energy at a lower cost than is currently being paid by households and businesses. 

Expected impact of addressing this energy need

Allowing locally generated energy to be supplied and/or marketed locally to help reduce household energy costs would help to reduce the incidence of fuel poverty in the Outer Hebrides. This would have the added benefit of freeing up income to spend in other areas of the local economy as well as ensuring that households can adequately heat their homes which would support their overall health and wellbeing. The Outer Hebrides face some of the highest poverty levels in Scotland with over 880 families living in poverty. The impact of the Covid pandemic has been a 4.1% increase in poverty levels. Fuel poverty levels in the Outer Hebrides are the highest in Scotland at 36% (the national average is 25%)  highlighting the vulnerability of our island communities to rising energy costs. Therefore, understanding and delivering better solutions to reducing household energy costs in the Outer Hebrides has never been more important. Potential results of the pilot project could include:

  • Advancing the innovative knowledge basis and/or technology base of the Outer Hebrides on local off-grid energy generation
  • Developing a virtual model of the Outer Hebrides energy system
  • Conducting research into the long term economic impacts of fuel poverty in the Outer Hebrides
  • Designing an innovative campaign for policy reform on local energy supply
  • Improving the knowledge/technological basis for alternative fuel sources
  • Showcasing new and improved means for insulating properties

Do you have a solution?

You can apply to RIPEET Call for Solution in Outer Hebrides here.