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I’m from the Isle of Raasay, off Scotland’s western coast, and co-chair of Raasay Community Renewables, a group working to build two hydropower projects here. There are many reasons our community wants to build hydropower programs, but a big one is something that’s known as “fuel poverty.”
Power usage is greater during winter months. The weather gets so horrible here — windy and wet — that everyone must heat their homes. Many houses are old, and not very well insulated. They rely on carbon-heavy heating systems that are expensive, due to a lack of infrastructure and high electricity prices. This ultimately means that people expend a huge amount of income just to keep their homes warm. If you're spending over a certain percentage of your income on heating and fuel, the Scottish government classifies you as being in “fuel poverty,” and the share of the population that’s in that category is very high on remote islands. Complicating matters, many people here are older and live on a fixed income.
While the two hydropower projects won’t directly fulfill Raasay’s energy demands, they’ll provide vital income. By harnessing the power of Raasay’s many water streams, the programs are expected to produce 137 kilowatts when operating at full capacity. We can sell that power to Scotland’s National Grid, and generate money to improve our own infrastructure.