Research with Fort William residents has revealed that 68 percent of locals are in favour of a mains gas supply coming to Fort William, with findings also highlighting insights from residents and businesses around what a mains gas supply would bring to the local area.
Independent market research agency, Explain Market Research, was commissioned by SGN to engage with local residents and businesses to understand their views and appetite for a gas network in Fort William.
The exploratory study, which involved in-depth interviews, surveys and discussion groups, was conducted between April and July 2018 to find out if there is demand for a gas network to be brought to the area.
A number of perceived benefits from a mains gas supply were raised during the research which included improved choice of energy supply and provider, reduced energy costs and greater value for money. The topic of improved reliability and greater efficiency was also raised among participants which covered the elimination of fuel shortage and supply issues, minimising business costs and improving competitiveness along with improved heating and cooking systems for domestic customers.
Economic aspects were also considered, drawing on new businesses and job opportunities for the local area which could benefit both the current residents and businesses as well as future generations to come.
Kim Davis, managing director at Explain Market Research commented: “At Explain, we have worked hard to develop methodologies to engage with vulnerable and hard to reach customers, delivering key insights to our clients, particularly within the utilities sector.
“Our team has extensive knowledge and experience in this industry, having conducted research programmes on behalf of water and electricity organisations for nearly two decades. Our approach for engaging with vulnerable customers is tried and tested so this project was a great fit for our company and what we stand for.”
Whilst the majority of respondents welcomed the idea of a mains gas supply, a small 20 percent of locals said they were against the idea and 12 percent said they were not sure if they support the provision.
As this was an exploratory study, no decision has yet been made as to whether a mains gas network will be installed in Fort William – its purpose was to find out what people think to inform any future decisions.
The timing of the study was driven by the future opening of a new manufacturing plant, Liberty British Aluminium, in the Fort William area.
The findings from the study have triggered the next phase of research which is a large-scale feasibility study to understand options of bringing gas to Fort William, and further public consultations. The feasibility study will be complete by summer 2019.