Published: 09/03/2018 15:55 - Updated: 09/03/2018 16:14

Families in the Cairngorms being pushed into fuel poverty by biomass problems


Susie Barclay and her son at their home in Aviemore
Susie Barclay and her son at their home in Aviemore


Householders dependent on biomass in the strath are struggling to keep the cold out and being forced into fuel poverty because of a double whammy as winter’s firm grip continues.

Unreliable wood-fuelled systems mean some housing association properties in Aviemore and Highland Council homes in Grantown are impossible to heat properly according to their tenants.

They are being faced with steep heating bills during the prolonged cold snap and in some cases claim they are having to chose between keeping warm and eating.

Among the council homes worst affected are those in Mackay Avenue, Dulaig Court, Cairngorm Avenue and part of Kylintra Crescent in Grantown and Albyn Housing Society homes on Lochan Mor in Aviemore.

Meanwhile, a nationwide shortage of high-quality wood pellets caused by a combination of factors at home and overseas is adding to the headaches and costs for these and others reliant on biomass heating locally.

One of those suffering is mother of two Fiona Clark who lives on Mackay Avenue and says she is being forced onto the breadline because of soaring heating bills.

She has an 11-month-old baby who underwent a heart operation last summer so it is critical that the family home is kept warm but it is proving a real struggle with her wood pellet boiler.

Ms Clark said: "There are lots of people in Grantown in the same boat... We are spending more on wood pellets that anything else in the house including food. My partner works but nearly all of his wages are going on trying to stop the house from getting cold."

Susie Barclay lives on Clan Court in Aviemore with son Tyghan (15) and says the communal biomass system provided by a housing association does not work in the coldest weather.

She said: "I would move in a second if I could afford it. I am miserable with the cold. It is absolutely freezing – even my friends keep their jackets on when they come round... The fact is that it is 12C in the house and that’s not liveable."

A staff member for Greenflame Installations in Grantown, said: "We are struggling to get deliveries and as soon as they come in they are out again even though we are rationing them.

"We have been sold out of wood pellets for a couple of weeks now and it will be next week or the week after before we can get more."

Another local supplier, who did not want to be named, has blamed the Scottish Government’s "greening policy" for the supply problems.

He said: "There is simply not enough timber to keep everyone going."

Highland Council said they are aware of the issue of biomass pellet supply and actively providing advice to tenants on where supplies might be accessed.

They have also been making the offer of temporary heating if tenants are unable to source pellets.

She added: "Highland Council has recently undertaken a survey of tenants in the Badenoch and Strathspey area, writing to all households with a biomass heating system, in order to better understand issues which tenants may be experiencing with their heating systems and will be providing additional advice around energy efficiency through follow-up contact."

Fuel poverty is defined as when a household is spending more than 10 per cent of its income on energy bills.

The shortage of high quality wood pellets has been caused by factors at home and overseas including oversupply to the market in recent years which has caused manufacturers to close several factories, and a wet autumn in Europe which has hampered supply.

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