Conference 2023: The role of communities in delivering fair and inclusive decarbonisation

We warmly invite you to our first in-person conference since 2019!

Wednesday 27th September, Augustine United Church, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL


This free event is being organised by Community Energy Scotland in collaboration with the Community Learning Exchange (Scottish Community Alliance – SCA). The aims of the conference are to:

  • Bring Scottish community organisations together to discuss and share learnings on an inclusive transition to decarbonisation that values well-being for all
  • Highlight the critical role of members and Community Energy Scotland in shaping strategic Scottish and UK policy and decision-making

The Programme

  • There will be opportunities to interact throughout including asking questions to the specially selected panels.
  • We are delighted to announce that Bobby Macaulay will deliver the Sandy Macaulay Lecture incorporating his father’s passion and pioneering work in community energy into his own expertise on community development.
  • Jill Keegan, Partnership Manager at Scottish Community Alliance, and conference collaborator, will demonstrate how SCA’s Community Learning Exchange programme supports the value of in person visits and how CES members can benefit. Jill will be on hand during the course of the day at the stall provided by Scottish Communities Alliance. This will be a perfect opportunity to discuss face to face with Jill how best your organisation can take advantage of CLE’s funding for peer learning visits.
  • Pauline Smith, CEO of Development Trusts Association Scotland will also join us along with her colleague, Morven Lyon, Community Shares Programme Manager, and they will be addressing the role and importance of community-led action in the just transition to decarbonisation.
  • Tom Lusink and Scott Watson, from Raasay Development Trust and Cumbrae Community Development Company respectively, will present work achieved so far as part of the Carbon Neutral Islands project. The project is led by the island communities to determine their own pathway and each island has now produced a Community Climate Action Plan based on the ideas and priorities identified by the people living there. The next phase of the project will involve taking these plans forward into real tangible actions that will help decarbonise local economies, increase resilience to climate change, and provide wider social and economic benefits. Ultimately replication across the wider country will support other organisations’ sustainable development plans.
  • Kristopher Leask, our Policy Manager, will introduce himself and this new role in our organisation. Kris will present the policy and advocacy work he has been focusing on to date and the plans for our membership to steer our future policy work. Dr Josh Doble, Policy Manager from Community Land Scotland, who has a key interest in the opportunities for progressive land reform within Scotland, will be co-delivering this presentation with Kristopher.
  • Lunch is provided onsite when there will be more time to network and discuss your community’s plans and aspirations.
  • Mid-afternoon, we welcome further inspiration from Felix Wight, previously Head of Development at CES and now Technical Director at Repowering London. Felix will share his own experience of developing local electricity supply models, exploring the benefits they can provide, and the current prospects for changes to legislation to make it easier for all communities to make the most of their power.
  • During the afternoon, we will facilitate focused discussion groups, covering critical topics, including those suggested by our members, and designed to share knowledge and develop ideas between peers. Key points will be identified and shared with everyone at the conference with an additional opportunity to raise questions to a panel of experts before we wrap up for the day.

Afternoon focused groups will cover:

  • Climate change action plans – energy, transport, land & sea, waste
  • The energy infrastructure system and its challenges and opportunities
  • Repowering
  • Linking community renewables with addressing fuel poverty
  • Community energy and land ownership as an alternative to carbon trading
  • Sustainable transport in our communities
  • Re-energising stakeholder collaboration: learning from the RIPEET project in the Outer Hebrides

We look forward to welcoming everyone to an interesting and valuable day for our members.

Everyone is also invited to informal drinks at the end of the day at the Waverley Bar, a 10 minute walk from Augustine United Church.

**Limited CES Member tickets available only – to reserve your space, please contact**

Please contact if you have any questions.

Local Energy Scotland

Want to know more about how your community can act on renewable energy?

The Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) provides funding and support for communities to engage, participate and benefit from the energy transition to net zero. This year’s CARES conference, which takes place on Tuesday 19 September in Glasgow, is taking a closer look at how communities can take action – from decarbonising community buildings, community investing in windfarms and hearing big ideas from leaders in the sector.

Find out more on Local Energy Scotland’s website.

Carbon Neutral Islands

The Carbon Neutral Islands (CNI) project aims to support six island communities towards achieving net zero by 2040, acting as Lighthouse Communities in Scotland’s decarbonisation journey. The project is led by the island communities to determine their own pathway and each island has now produced a Climate Action Plan based on the ideas and priorities identified by the people living there. The next phase of the project will involve taking these plans forward into real tangible actions that will help decarbonise local economies, increase resilience to climate change, and provide wider social and economic benefits.  

The six islands have produced CNI Community Climate Action Plans: 

In May 2022, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands announced that six Scottish islands would be supported by the Carbon Neutral Islands project: Barra & Vatersay, Cumbrae, Hoy & Walls, Islay, Raasay, and Yell, representing one island from each of the local authority areas with responsibility for inhabited islands in Scotland.  

The CNI Project is a Scottish Government commitment that aims to demonstrate the climate-resilience and low carbon potential of islands by 2040. The CNI project will help to deliver key commitments in the National Islands Plan and the National Performance Framework, create island-based jobs, and support islands to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The project aims to align with wider net-zero and decarbonisation efforts and will contribute to the Scottish Government’s statutory target to reach net zero by 2045

Drivers underpinning the Carbon Neutral Islands Project

The CNI project is underpinned by the following key drivers: alignment, justice and inclusion, and replicability. 

Alignment: The project aims to align with existing island-based climate change actions and to avoid duplication of efforts.  

Justice and inclusion: The project will support islands to become carbon neutral in a just and fair way.  

Replicability: The work is being completed to standardised and agreed methodologies wherever possible to allow replication and direct comparison.  

Project Structure

The project is led by community development officers (CDOs) on each island, employed by the local anchor organisation and working with a steering group of community representatives. Local knowledge and trusted relationships are key to effective community engagement, ensuring the project is driven by, and reflects, the concerns of the island communities. 

Support is provided by the Scottish Government Islands Team: Community Energy Scotland, Scottish Communities Climate Action Network, Sniffer, Aquatera, and external project partners​.  

The six Local Anchor Organisations are Voluntary Action Barra and VatersayCumbrae Community Development CouncilIsland of Hoy Development Trust,  Islay Energy TrustRaasay Development Trust and North Yell Development Council.

The CNI Process

Carbon Audit Overview

Carbon audits have been completed to measure and monitor baseline emissions across key sectors for each island – Energy; Transport; Waste; Agriculture; and Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). The audits follow the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Inventories, and IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories

The Scottish Blue Carbon Forum are also working to include blue (marine) carbon in the UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory. A ‘Habitat Suitability Study’ is in development within the CNI project framework to estimate blue carbon potential for the islands.

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol is built around the following core principles: 






In alignment with these principles, and to ensure effective benchmarking, the audits are intended to be island-led and replicable by local communities. By using local expertise, the data used is both robust and specific to the islands. Where possible, existing audits and supporting data have been used, and data has been provided by island residents or verified by local experts. 

Community Climate Action Plans

Next Steps

The next stage of the CNI project will refine the communities’ actions into detailed proposals. The actions will be evaluated in terms of their cost, feasibility, carbon impact, and wider benefits to the community. This will lead to the development of detailed community investment strategies. 

It is essential the actions are led by and developed for the community. This requires the communities to lead on immediate actions by taking advantage of ‘quick wins’ and working on longer-term plans. Most actions require collaboration, so building partnerships in both the public and private sectors is critical. This will allow the communities to make tangible progress towards their own visions of a decarbonised future. 

Going forward, the CNI Project aims to benefit other Scottish Islands by sharing learnings from the six ‘lighthouse’ islands. A Climate Action Handbook for island communities will present the resources developed through the project, and knowledge sharing events will showcase good practices and lessons learned from the project. 

Community Energy Scotland’s response to the Scottish Government’s Draft Energy Strategy & Just Transition Plan

This Scottish Government document explicitly states a goal of “maximising community benefits from, and ownership of, energy projects”.

While this is a welcome commitment, in our response to this important consultation, we have stressed the need and have detailed ways to address some of the Scottish Government’s strategic goals and plans relating to community energy and other community decarbonisation activities. Community Energy Scotland also recommends the Scottish Government considers longer term strategic goals in order to maintain a realistic perspective on its obligations and expectations, whilst fully addressing the needs of the communities it serves and tackling the climate emergency.

Critically, the need for clearer definitions to identify genuine community ownership has been highlighted. Emphasis has also been placed on the importance of enabling community groups and anchor organisations to use their skills and expertise for delivering local benefits in a fair and just way.

We have requested additional government support for communities to fulfil their plans and upscale their activities in order to thrive and to collectively contribute substantially to government climate-related targets. We are strongly urging both the Scottish and UK governments for significant policy change enabling local energy trading to create localised markets and support micro-grids and decentralisation of the energy market.

You can read our full response in the link below.

A step closer to community renewables selling energy locally

Yesterday we wrote, on behalf of our members, to Scotland’s MPs urging them to attend the House of Commons’ second reading of the Local Energy Bill on 9th May. Read our letter here.

Two weeks ago, the House of Lords voted to add two amendments to the Local Energy Bill at its Lords Report stage. This means that the Energy Bill now contains two new clauses – numbers 272 and 273, that would enable growth in community renewable energy schemes by allowing them to sell their energy locally.

This is a critical point in the life of the Bill as it now comes to the House of Commons containing the community energy enabling legislation we and others are calling for. All that remains is to persuade the Government to allow the clauses to stay in the Bill. The next vital step is to get many MPs to attend the Bill’s Second Reading debate in the Commons on Tuesday 9th May and to speak in favour of the clauses.

Power for People have been leading this UK-wide campaign and to date have the support of over 300 MPs, 78 national organisations and over 800 local organisations.

You can find an easy guide here for identifying and writing to your MP.

New EVs at Orkney’s Co Wheels Car Club

Exciting news for sustainable transport enthusiasts! Orkney’s Co Wheels Car Club has just received two brand-new electric vehicles (EVs). The new additions to the car club are two MG4s, a multiple award-winning electric car with a range of over 200 miles.

Community Energy Scotland (CES), in partnership with Co Wheels, is responsible for the yearly operation of one of the two MG4s and the other is the responsibility of Orkney-based EMEC (European Marine energy Centre).

The new car at the Kirkwall Pier replaces the previous vehicle supplied by the recently completed ReFLEX Orkney project. The project EV proved to be a popular choice for use by residents of the Northern Orkney Islands to access a car on Orkney Mainland without having to bring their own vehicles on the ferry. We are delighted to be able to continue the service and support residents with a brand new EV.

Smart locking and unlocking of a Car Club car

The Orkney Co Wheels Car Club includes three electric vehicles:

  • An MG4 at the Kirkwall pier
  • An MGZS at Sommerville Square, in Kirkwall
  • An MG4 at the ORIC building, in Stromness

The Car Club, operated by Co Wheels, a UK national social enterprise, is a membership-based service that allows members to rent vehicles for short periods of time, by the hour. Members reserve the MG4 through an easy online booking system, and then pick it up from a designated location. It’s a helpful and convenient option for people who do not want the expense and hassle of owning a personal vehicle, or for those who need access to a car for occasional use.

The Orkney Co Wheels Car Club is a positive step towards reducing our reliance on personal vehicles, encouraging the use of sustainable transport options. For the next year, CES is aiming to raise awareness of the Car Club so that it can benefit as many Orkney residents as possible and to establish a firm foundation for its future.

Smarter Choices Smarter Places awarded funding to CES to cover 50% of CES’ investment into the Car Club operation and communications. We are grateful for the opportunity this has given us to help make this local service possible.

Overall, the addition of new electric vehicles to the Orkney Co Wheels Car Club is a forward looking development for sustainable transport in the region. With convenient access to low-emission vehicles, residents and visitors alike can now travel around Orkney without relying on personal cars.

Annual General Meeting 2023

You are invited to attend our online AGM on 10 March

We are also pleased to confirm an open session discussion with CES staff, Board and Members following the AGM.

Please register using this link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

12.00 CES AGM
12.30 Member, Staff & Board open discussion
13.00 Close

Click the button below for the full notice, agenda and links to previous minutes, and documents for director nominations.

Orkney and Shetland studies win Net Zero Living funding

Orkney and Shetland have been chosen as two of 31 innovation locations in the UK, to conduct three-month feasibility studies examining how to overcome some of the key non-technical barriers that are holding back efforts to reach net zero targets in their area. The projects will run from 1 April to 30 June 2023 and will be funded by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation.

The studies will draw on the considerable expertise and learning from challenges experienced on multiple renewables and decarbonisation projects in Orkney and Shetland including ReFLEX Orkney, HIMET, HyDIME, Heat Smart Orkney and the Sustainable Aviation Test Environment; as well as the decarbonisation strategies and net zero mapping by the two councils. The Shetland study will focus on a model to create a rural energy and transport hub in Shetland.

ReFLEX Orkney Experience Centre - building with Reflex project branded cars parked outside.
ReFLEX Orkney Experience Centre (Photo credit Jonathan Porterfield)

The Net Zero Living Orkney project will be delivered by a consortium led by Aquatera Ltd working with Orkney Island Council, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC), Community Energy Scotland (CES) and ReFLEX Orkney Ltd.

The Shetland project is called the ‘Shetland Rural Energy Hub’ and will be lead by Shetland Islands Council and undertaken in collaboration with Aquatera (who will contribute additional in-kind support to the project) and Community Energy Scotland.

The Net Zero Living programme from Innovate UK is investing up to £2 million in innovation projects with £69,000 coming to the Orkney project and £52,648 to Shetland. The aim of the programme is to support 31 places in the UK to do a feasibility study to plan, with local authorities, on how to accelerate their transition to net zero, by developing innovative solutions to overcome non-technical barriers to implementation.

Hydrogen storage cylinders & CES Surf ‘N’ Turf mobile storage unit

“Over the last few years of seeking to deliver innovative projects in Orkney, our project team have gained significant real-world experience of non-technical barriers to achieving innovation in energy solutions, which include regulation, policy, finance, behavioural change and challenges with restrictions around the grid network. This funding from Innovate UK provides us with the rare opportunity to do in depth analysis of the challenges faced across multiple projects in Orkney to date, and to plan how we can overcome these challenges in Orkney and Shetland.”

Gavin Barr, Managing Director of Aquatera

“Since the UK’s first grid-connected wind turbine started generating electricity in 1951, Orkney has been a world leader for renewable energy and decarbonisation – pioneering innovative approaches and technologies; and growing a collaborative, expert community of keen early adopters and volunteers for pilots and projects. This programme will help us to accelerate our ambitious plans to achieve net zero in Orkney. ”

Orkney Islands Council Leader James Stockan

“The Net Zero Route Maps have increased our success at accessing funding, and it is great that we are moving into the action phase in working towards targets and realising our ambitions for Shetland’s future. Locally focussed projects like the Shetland Rural Energy Hub will have many benefits for the Shetland community.”

Moraig Lyall, Chair of Shetland Islands Council’s Environment and Transport Committee

The Orkney and Shetland projects are linked and the shared learning from them will feed into the work of the Islands Deal funded Islands Centre for Net Zero.

“The timing of this funding is ideal. The Net Zero Living Orkney project comes as the core funding for the ReFLEX Orkney project comes to an end and the 10 year Islands Centre for Net Zero project, funded by the Islands Deal, takes off. ICNZ includes Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides working together and learning from each other. The Net Zero Living projects in Orkney and Shetland will provide insight that will help jump start and underpin the future work of the ICNZ.”

Neil Kermode, Managing Director of EMEC

“Multiple community innovation projects in Orkney mean that many aspects of these issues are becoming understood but experience shows that non-technical challenges often block good, fair and equitable local solutions. The Net Zero Living Orkney project will specifically engage with these known difficulties — unlocking new and innovative opportunities for just decarbonisation in Orkney, Shetland and the Scottish Island communities, which will in turn have replicability and application worldwide.”

Mark Hull, Chief Technical Officer for Community Energy Scotland

Image: Air source heat pump awaiting installation as part of CES SMILE project

The feasibility studies announced today are for phase 1 of Innovate UK’s Net Zero Living programme. If the Orkney and Shetland projects are successful the partners could be invited to apply to the second phase, for up to £5 million further funding per project to deliver the plans set out in phase 1. Six of the original 31 projects will be selected for phase 2.

Read more about the linked Net Zero Living Project in Shetland here:

You can read the full announcement from Innovate UK on the launch of the Net Zero Living programme here:

Read more about the Islands Centre for Net Zero here: Islands Centre For Net Zero – Islands Growth Deal (

Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan published

The Scottish Government has published its draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, which sets out key ambitions for a just energy transition that benefits communities across Scotland and protects our environment and energy security. Additional sectoral Just Transition Plans for Buildings and Construction, Land Use and Agriculture and Transport are expected to be published within the first half of 2023.

The Strategy includes commitments to increasing access to affordable energy, prioritising those in or at risk of fuel poverty. It also includes a commitment to maximising community benefits from, and ownership (including shared ownership) of, energy projects, and providing regional and local opportunities to participate in a net zero energy future.

The fact that Scotland has diverse communities with differing needs is recognised, and the report states that “by 2030, regions and communities will be empowered to participate in the energy transition in a way that meets their needs including increasing the number of community owned energy projects…. By 2030 the costs and benefits of the growth in our clean electricity generation will be shared equitably across society”. How this will be achieved is not specified; it will be important that community consultation on local issues is included in the final version of the strategy.

Specific programmes for rural and island communities are also highlighted, with Community Energy Scotland’s Carbon Neutral Islands project being mentioned, as well as £30 million of loans and grants for people on lower incomes in remote and island communities to switch to zero emissions vehicles. The need for investment in electricity infrastructure against rising costs of constraints  is recognised,  as well as the importance that charging arrangements are reformed as “in a net zero world it is counterproductive to care more about where generation is situated than what type of generation it is”.

“It is refreshing to see a draft Scottish Government strategy with communities at its heart. The recognition that a just energy transition needs to meet the needs of different communities and geographies is also particularly welcomed. We will now engage in the consultation process to ensure that communities are not only seen as key beneficiaries of the strategy but also as key actors in its realisation. Agencies such as Heat and Energy Scotland should work in partnership with local groups to reach the most vulnerable people and mobilise communities to help to achieve the Scottish Government’s targets on every aspect of energy, from reduction in energy demand, installation of additional renewable energy capacity and behavioural change towards public and active transport.

“Additional support for communities, both in terms of finance and capacity building, will also be required if the Scottish Government is to achieve its targets on active travel and energy efficiency, and especially its 2030 target of 2GW of community and locally owned energy, having missed the 2020 target.”

Zoe Holliday, CEO of Community Energy Scotland

The full document is available on the Scottish Government website and includes 50 consultation questions. Consultation responses should be submitted by Tuesday 4 April 2023. If you would like to contribute your feedback to CES’s consultation response please get in touch. info(at)

Opinion piece regarding hydrogen in Scotland

Community Energy Scotland has written a position paper on hydrogen to support the Hydrogen Integration for Accelerated Energy Transitions (HI-ACT) centre. This paper forms our opinion about hydrogen in Scotland at the time of writing (October 2022) and you can read it here.

We have supported community groups in numerous hydrogen related innovation projects including: Outer Hebrides Local Energy Hub (OHLEH), Surf ‘n’ Turf and Building Innovative Green Hydrogen systems in Isolated Territories (BIG HIT)

Community Energy Scotland doesn’t view hydrogen as a goal but as a potential way to reduce human impact on the climate. We see that the integration of renewably generated hydrogen into Smart Local Energy Systems could deliver on low carbon societies in the future. We do not support hydrogen production that uses fossil fuels and emits carbon dioxide as a by-product as it hinders our vision of “communities actively shaping a low-carbon society that values wellbeing for all”.

At present, the real-world performance of hydrogen technology is lacking and the Integration Readiness Level is low. Without an established market for hydrogen, commercial viability is some way off. Two major barriers for hydrogen production are the need for upskilling local workforces to be able to maintain hydrogen systems, and the sourcing of adequate quantities of suitable water.

In the long term, hydrogen could reduce the amount of renewable generation capacity that is needed to meet peak demand by providing long-term energy storage, peak lopping, and other grid services. Traditional network reinforcement is required across most of Scotland to enable further renewable generation; it is our opinion that this is preferable to replacing diesel with hydrogen in power stations run by Distribution Network Operators.

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