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July 30, 2014

There is another way

Whenever the big energy companies announce their profits, we get the usual waffle about fluctuations in the wholesale markets or some such but it’s never anything to do with the prices they charge the consumer. Politicians make noises about dysfunctional markets and slap a few corporate wrists but seem powerless to intervene. But imagine a world where profit was no longer the principal driver of the energy market. Instead, imagine a world where the supply of cheap energy was not only desirable but deliverable. West Whitlawburn Housing Cooperative just has.



West Whitlawburn Housing Cooperative

West Whitlawburn Housing Co-operative has announced its fuel prices for its much vaunted Biomass Energy Project.

The figures are stunning and show:

• 24% Savings on average against regional and national prices.

• A whopping 30% savings on average against tenants current fuel bills.

The £6.75m project funded by Npower, The European Regional Development fund and a loan from the Energy Savings Trust is the first of its kind in the area. In becoming the Energy Supply Company (ESCO) the community controlled Housing Co-operative takes control of setting fuel prices for the 543 tenants involved in the scheme, and the costs savings are amazing. The scheme is also estimated to be saving 1600 tonnes of carbon each year.

West Whitlawburn launched the scheme this week at an event attended by Tom Greatrex  MP, the shadow Energy Minister.

Paul Farrell Director of WWHC said  “Fuel poverty is a serious issue for many tenants. Figures show that over 50% of our tenants are income deprived against a national average of 17% and can be paying as much as 72% more for fuel supply costs than the national average, that is scandalous. Once again WWHC has delivered a spectacular success story, in an environmentally friendly way. Looking at government figures it is clear other agencies, often with significant public funding are failing, particularly in health and employment. This project, coupled with our recent amazing tenant satisfaction survey results, proves to me that the community controlled co-operative model continues to deliver dazzling results.

The project team, headed by Stephanie Marshall (Depute Director WWHC), has done a tremendous job. I take my hat off to them. “The first houses to benefit from the scheme will be in Kintore Tower, Arran Tower and Benmore Tower with supply commencing this month, with all 543 properties in the scheme connected before Christmas.

Muriel Alcorn a tenant and treasurer of the Housing Co-operative said  “We just go from strength to strength, from one success to another, it is fantastic. We set up the Co-operative 25 years ago, never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined we would go on to achieve so much. It makes us very proud. “

Cambuslang’s MP, Tom Greatrex, who is also Labour’s Shadow Energy Minister, said: “This project is really positive news for members and tenants of West Whitlawburn Housing Co-operative. With warmer homes, more controllable heat, lower bills and a reduction in emissions – it is win for residents and the environment alike.

“It is no surprise to me to see that WWHC Committee members, staff and tenants are at the forefront of this innovative project. Their determination, tenacity and commitment is well known. With the cost of energy such a real issue for many people in Lanarkshire, as it is across the UK, I am sure many others will be seeking to learn from the West Whitlawburn scheme in months to come.”