First year of Point and Sandwick’s LED project is ‘highly successful’

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The community of Point and Sandwick is on track to become the first LED energy community in the UK after a project to cut carbon emissions beat its first year targets.

The LED Energy Community project, being run by community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust (PST) in partnership with Tighean Innse Gall (TIG), is reaching more households faster than it had hoped and being hailed a ‘great success’.

The main element of the project is the offer of up to 14 free LED lightbulbs to every household, which has inspired other community estate trusts on the island to do similar projects of their own.

As well as the free lightbulbs — which use a fraction of the power of traditional high energy bulbs and can cut annual bills by up to £100 — residents are also being offered energy performance surveys on properties and advice on further useful steps such as insulation. They are then guided through the application process.

Dan Morrison from TIG is the main project officer on Point and Sandwick’s LED Energy Community project and he was joined earlier this year by Amy Kapherr-Diament.

Amy is also employed by TIG and is a project officer working part-time on the Point and Sandwick project and part-time on another LED project recently launched by the Galson and Carloway estate trusts.

Between them, Dan and Amy have managed to carry out 168 home visits in year one, exceeding the annual target of 140 households.

Year one began in May 2016 and saw the installation of LED lightbulbs in 141 homes in the area. During that time, 144 energy efficiency measures were also installed. These were major improvements not related to lighting.

Of these projects, 36 were internal wall insulation projects and 32 were ‘rooms in the roof’. Other works included underfloor insulation, draft proofing, external wall insulation and loft top-ups.

Some homes received more than one energy efficiency measure and 43 of them were a direct result of households being referred by the LED project officers to other departments within TIG or partner agencies, which cuts red tape and speeds up the application process.

Dan and Amy also advised on bills and energy suppliers and succeeded in getting more than £1,600 of fuel debt written off for eligible households on low incomes.

Dan said: “It was a highly successful first year. People were really engaged and positive about the project. Some are stunned by the improvements that the LEDs have made — in the light in people’s homes and in lowering costs.”

The Climate Challenge Fund have endorsed Point and Sandwick’s aim of becoming ‘the first LED community in the UK’ — where 90 per cent of households are lit by LEDs — but the ultimate aim of the project is even more ambitious.

According to a fuel poverty report published by TIG in 2014, around 71 per cent of residents in the Western Isles are living in fuel poverty.

Point and Sandwick Trust general manager Donald John MacSween explained: “The idea would be to have everybody who lives in Point and Sandwick by 2021 living in a warm, comfortable, well-insulated house that is energy efficient and cheap to run.

“The thing about living here is the climate is really awful. It’s wet and windy and the mean temperature doesn’t vary very much between summer and winter.”

Point and Sandwick Trust are funding the project to the tune of £375,000 over five years with £71,900 help from the Climate Challenge Fund in year one.

Every household is allowed up to 14 LED bulbs to replace older lighting and there are nearly 20 different styles of bulbs to choose from, all in a pleasant ‘warm white’ tone. There are currently around 60 households on the waiting list for a visit.