Top award for rural heating project

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An “innovative” investment in tenants’ homes has won Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership (DGHP) a prestigious national award for environmental best practice.

DGHP picked up the overall gold award from the Scottish Green Apple Awards for Energy Efficiency and Innovation at a recent ceremony in Edinburgh.

Winners are recognised for their contribution to the built environment and architectural heritage.

Judges said DGHP’s submission to the awards was “innovative” and that “producing micro-generation on a large scale is exceptional”.

The award recognises the achievements and success of DGHP’s rural heating programme, making specific reference to the Community Energy Savings Programme in Whithorn and micro-generation work in Moniaive.

British Gas won the contract for heating upgrades to 4400 homes three years ago. The contract covered nearly 2800 homes that had access to gas and a further 1600 that didn’t.

The rural project provided access to inexpensive fuel through investment in micro-generation measures like heat pumps, biomass fuel, solar water heaters, electric wet systems – all with easy controls and favourable affordable tariffs.

The works at Whithorn were particularly praised as the project involved the Community Energy Savings Programme. This is one of only a handful of national UK schemes to help homes off the gas grid.

The funding allowed the inclusion of private owners in Whithorn and helped to improve the energy efficiency of as many homes as possible.

To date, the project has installed more than 3000 new heating systems into homes across the region, so tenants throughout Dumfries and Galloway are living in warmer homes.

The project also made sure that all homes received an energy reduction survey which included installing insulation and assisting tenants with energy advice.

The project has provided training opportunities for local people. A local workforce was trained to carry out the installations and they are all now qualified to install a full range of technologies.

James Shirazi, director of investment and regeneration at DGHP, said: “We are thrilled to have picked up this award. The project has been really successful and it’s a brilliant achievement for everyone who has been involved.”

Councillor Jim McClung, chairman of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s housing sub-committee, added: “I am very impressed by this project and believe the award is very well deserved. Dumfries and Galloway Council recently signed Scotland’s Climate Change Declaration and encourages projects that reduce greenhouse gases and tackle fuel poverty.”

Alex Dingwall, area operations manager with Scottish Gas, said: “We have been working hard to provide 1700 homes in Dumfries and Galloway with insulation and modern and affordable heating systems. I’m really happy that these awards recognise how far the project has come. We are over halfway there, having already installed over 800 homes with new heating systems. These new systems really do make a huge difference to people’s lives and can save up to £40 per month on their heating bills.”

Dr Aileen McLeod, MSP for South of Scotland, said: “I am delighted that DGHP has been successful in securing this prestigious national award and I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the projects.

“I have invited the new Minister for Housing and Welfare, Margaret Burgess MSP, to visit the projects and see first-hand the work that DGHP is doing to promote energy efficiency and tackle fuel poverty.”