A biomass boiler which formed part of a £3million “green” heating system at the north’s flagship hospital – hailed for potentially saving NHS Highland £1m a year – has lain dormant for four years after a horror explosion, sparking fury among politicians.
The health authority installed two “energy-saving” wood pellet boilers in 2013, but one exploded in March 2015 after a build-up of pressure – with three workers escaping unhurt.
It has now emerged that the damaged boiler has not yet been repaired.
Scottish Labour’s shadow health spokesman, and Highland MSP, David Stewart said: “It beggars belief to be honest that a boiler fitted as one of two energy efficient systems has lain broken down for four years and not been repaired.
“This green energy system was to provide 80% of heating for Raigmore Hospital and then earn the NHS Highland income on top of that.
“Yet those in authority in NHS Highland thought it was prudent to leave this boiler unrepaired.”
Conservative north MSP Edward Mountain added: “NHS Highland has a proven track record in poor financial management and this example further underlines their failures.
“I have written to the new chief executive of NHS Highland to ask for clarification on this matter and asked him to investigate it as a matter of urgency. Assets sitting idle in times of need is inexcusable.”
When NHS Highland announced the installation of the boilers they said it would provide up to 80% of the hospital’s heating and hot water demand and save about £1m a year on energy costs, generating income through government subsidies for reducing carbon emissions.
But one of the boilers exploded in March 2015 and has never been repaired.
Councillor Ian Brown, an electrician and shop steward at the hospital, said: “It is still redundant. The hospital is working with the company that originally designed it to get it reinstated.”
An NHS Highland spokesman said: “[We] can confirm the biomass boiler at Raigmore Hospital has been out of service since March 2015. We are making every effort to ensure the biomass boiler is up and running as soon as possible.
“There were a number of difficulties which prevented us from recommissioning the biomass boiler.
“These issues have been resolved. A project team has been established to recommission the biomass boiler.”
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He said their intention was to have it “fully serviced and operational by late summer”.
The boilers, which burn wood pellets, were installed at the end of 2013 in a bid to save NHS Highland fuel costs.
They qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive, a government scheme for public sector organisations that generate and use renewable energy to heat their buildings.