OREF is focussed not just on harvesting energy sustainably, but also in using it efficiently. Energy conservation is therefore of prime importance.

With a long heating season, exposed conditions leading to wind-chill and historically poor housing stock; Orkney suffers badly from a condition known as fuel poverty. This has been defined as where a household spends more than 10% of its income on fuel. Such high spending results in choices being made such as to ‘heat or eat’ and it is believed this results in many poorer families living in cold and therefore damp conditions; conditions that are ridiculous in the 21st century in Scotland.

The actual figures are not known, but estimates based on statistical samples, suggest that Orkney has over 60% of households in this condition.

The irony of being both fuel poor, but also surrounded and buffeted by the bountiful renewable resources in the form of wind, waves and tides is not lost on many members. OREF is keen to see energy conservation measures employed to reduce the need for energy and is pushing for improvements in building standards generally. OREF has also been lobbying for better tariffs that would allow affordable heat at times of plenty. Additionally measures to alleviate fuel poverty through strategic interventions are seen as important and OREF responds to consultations and lobbies for a better approach.

One example of an action initiated by OREF members is the creation of a Feed in Tariff recycling scheme. By working with THAW Orkney, OREF has established a means to allow FiT recipients to set up a direct debit and donate a proportion of the income from their turbines to this charity.

It is unfortunate that the Feed in Tariff system is funded by a levy on all electricity bills. This means that even those in fuel poverty are contributing to the scheme, so as a means of seeking to redress this, OREF encourages FIT recipients to donate a small proportion of income to THAW Orkney. For the maths behind the scheme see here. To participate go to the THAW Orkney site.