Highland Council leader says 950 Wick homes can benefit from district heating system
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Some households are cutting their annual bills by thousands of pounds a year as a result of being linked to Wick's low-carbon district heating scheme, it has emerged.
Some 250 properties are already benefiting from their connection to the sustainable energy centre operated by Ignis Wick Ltd, beside Pulteney Distillery – and there is potential for as many as 700 more to follow suit.
Highland Council leader Raymond Bremner is working closely with Ignis on the expansion of the system and he says "real progress" is being made in delivering cheaper heating and hot water.
In a report to the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council (RBWCC), he gives the example of one customer who had been paying £80 a week for coal, an annual total of £4160, but is now spending £65 a month on heating – saving £3380 a year.
Another householder on gas in a one-bedroom flat was spending £100 per month on heating, amounting to £1200 a year. The person is now paying £40 a month and saving £720 annually.
Councillor Bremner, who represents Wick and East Caithness, said: “I’ve been working on this project for some time along with council officers and Ignis Wick Ltd. There have been some challenges, including being able to secure the supply of smart meters, but I’m delighted that we are now seeing some real progress in delivering cheaper heating, mitigating the fuel and energy crisis that many in our community have been facing.
"The project is now reviewed regularly with a group of officers, engineers and stakeholders. Not only will we see 123 properties added to the scheme by March, over 50 of which are already connected now, there is a much bigger focus including expanding the heating system to other areas of Pulteneytown."
The prospect of extending the scheme to the Wick side is also being considered.
"There is potential for nearly 950 homes in the town to be linked to the district heating system. It will take time and we need to undertake a feasibility study to see if we can realise that potential," he said.
"I really hope that we can achieve this. It has been hard work but the potential I first saw when I went round the plant over a year and a half ago is now helping deliver real savings for people – and for some, that saving is in the thousands.”
Councillor Bremner toured the Ignis plant in March last year. He heard that it was providing heating and hot water to around 200 homes in Pulteneytown as well as to Caithness General Hospital and the Assembly Rooms, and supplying steam to the distillery.
He was shown the process for burning hundreds of tonnes of locally sourced wood chip each month and how the heat was distributed through a 10.5km network of underground pipes.
In his written update for RBWCC this month, Councillor Bremner points out: "Analysis has concluded that connection to the district heating scheme raises the energy efficiency rating of domestic properties. There is clear evidence that access to the Ignis heating tariff leads to significant fuel bill savings to householders."
Of the additional 123 properties due to join the network by the end of March next year, in what are termed phases one and two of the expansion, 59 had been connected by the first week of October. Properties covered in these phases include 24 in Murchison Street, 14 each in Kinnaird Street, Nicolson Street and Wellington Street and 12 in Huddart Street.
Future phases would involve an expansion of the underground pipework from the Ignis centre.
Phase three will involve 212 council properties in the Upper Dunbar Street and Kennedy Terrace areas, with a further 50 properties in the Seaforth Avenue area.
Work is under way to review the possible extension of the system across the river where a further 362 council houses could theoretically form a further phase. "This will require significant infrastructure and is subject to a feasibility study," Councillor Bremner's report says.
It adds that "work has been undertaken to make the district heating system available to owner-occupied properties".
On the savings being achieved by householders, Councillor Bremner states: "This is a huge benefit and exactly the type of outcome that was hoped for."