Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in renewables was bolstered by last week’s news that the sector has already generated enough electricity this year to supply in excess of Scotland’s demand for six days. Our renewables sector is a fantastic success story and I am delighted to see it grow from strength to strength, with the Highlands and Islands well and truly leading the way.
Already more than half of all gross electricity consumption in Scotland comes from renewables. As well as helping to tackle climate change, the sector continues to attract investment – creating desirable skilled jobs in the Highlands & Islands and across Scotland.
Indeed, renewables has long become a vital part of our Highland economy and if it is to stay that way then the sector must be front and centre of Government energy policy. To date, the Scottish Governments commitment to the sector has been unfaltering; regrettably, the same cannot be said for successive UK Governments.
Despite the UK’s renewable sector supporting over 10,000 jobs and attracting more than a billion pounds of investment, a catalogue of cuts to support and policy changes have hampered the sector.
Indeed, even when good news comes, it more often than not too little – and much too late.
This is true of last week’s announcement that new rules will make it easier for consumers to generate and store their own power using solar panels and batteries. Whilst the news that it will be easier for some consumers to sell energy back into the National Grid is very welcome, it does nothing to abate the years of UK Government inaction that has led to an energy market that is not fit for purpose.
For years Governments have avoided tackling an energy market that is leaving thousands of families facing fuel poverty. Energy policy must confront the stark inequity in a market that serves big energy companies more than consumers.
Still, across the UK there are 14 regional markets with different levels of network charges meaning that electricity distribution charges for the north of Scotland are 84% higher than the charges for London and the standard unit price is 2p a kw/hr more than in other parts of the UK. Here in the Highlands we still pay higher electricity charges than anywhere else in the UK – this despite producing much of the electricity right here on our doorsteps.
People should not be penalised because of where they live or because they don’t have the money to invest in technology. It is time that we saw real action to cut costs for households squeezed by rising prices and stretched incomes and this will remain one of my key campaigns when I return to Westminster in September.
Meanwhile, here in the constituency I have a jam-packed tour of surgeries and door-to-door visits arranged over the summer and I hope to catch up with as many of you as possible. You can find details of surgeries on my website at www.drewhendrymp.scot. I will also be out and about visiting some of our fantastic local community groups and businesses. So please do get in touch if there is an initiative or project you would like me to visit. I will always do my best to make it along.
Before I finish, I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to Stephanie Inglis, who announced her retirement from competitive Judo last week. I know readers will agree with me that Stephanie’s courage and determination in sport and in life, has made her a true inspiration to us all, and particularly to our young people. I am sure whatever her next adventure is, she will take it on with the same enthusiasm and spirit as she always has and I wish her all the very best.