The Islands Centre for Net Zero (ICNZ) is a pan-island distributed innovation centre, supported by the Islands Deal that will support Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides to become lighthouse communities in the energy transition.
This initiative is being developed by a consortium that is deeply rooted in the islands themselves. The lead is EMEC, accompanied by partners such as Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council, Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar, Heriot-Watt University, Aquatera Ltd, and Community Energy Scotland.
The ICNZ is supported by joint investment of up to £16.5 million from the UK Government and Scottish Government. Islands Deal funding will support the establishment of the core ICNZ facility at the Orkney Research and Innovation Campus, the creation of a decarbonisation toolbox, and investment in energy transition capital projects across the 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.
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.
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
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.
The N76 Energy in Motion project is a partnership with six development trusts based along and around the A76 trunk road in Dumfries & Galloway and East Ayrshire. The project was started in response to development trusts’ concerns about local barriers to travel and ways to reduce these barriers by improving low carbon transport (LCT) options. The development trusts have identified transport as a shared challenge for their communities and essential for achieving local development goals.
What does this project involve?
In the first year of the project, we identified LCT challenges and potential in the local area through public consultations. These consultations were used to create six in-depth transport plans and a summary report which highlight achievable solutions and future projects for individual development trusts and the overall N76 project area.
Now in our second year, we are using the above outcomes to support the N76 partners to develop individual and joint transport projects, with the aim of tackling some of the challenges and opportunities for transport in the N76 area that were identified in year 1.
Events are a key aspect of the N76 project and have included learning visits, workshops and networking sessions which are open to other relevant organisations and the public. In year 1, these included a visit to Beattock Station Action Group to hear about their campaign for a train station, and to Ettrick & Yarrow Development Company to see their LCT projects. We also held a workshop event during which attendees helped map active travel routes within the project area and shared ideas for improving walking, cycling and wheeling options for our communities.
In year 2, local interest in the mapping workshop led to two further events in Moniaive and New Cumnock, this time with a specific focus on active travel within each individual community. We have also organised learning visits to the Wheels of Fleet cycling project in Gatehouse of Fleet and Coalfield Community Transport in Cumnock, both of which are highly successful transport initiatives.
Community transport (CT) has been an important aspect of year 2 of the project, due to the need for support identified in the year 1 transport plans and the enthusiasm of local CT providers and N76 partners to work together on their shared challenges.
Who are we working with?
The N76 partners are comprised of six development trusts on and around the A76 in Dumfries and Galloway and East Ayrshire.
Moniaive Initiative, Glencairn Parish
Nith Valley Leaf Trust, Closeburn Parish
KPT Development Trust, Keir, Penpont and Tynron Parishes
Sanquhar Enterprise Company, Sanquhar Parish
Kirkconnel and Kelloholm Development Trust, Kirkconnel Parish
The N76 project began in 2022 and is made possible thanks to the support of Paths For All’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places (SCSP) Open Fund; Foundation Scotland’s Clyde Community Fund and Annandale and Nithsdale Community Benefit Company (ANCBC) Fund; and Dumfries & Galloway Council’s Regionwide Community Fund (RWCF).
Western Isles Energy in Motion (WIEiM) ran from July 2020 to August 2021 which aimed to raise awareness of sustainable transport opportunities for community organisations in the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) of Scotland. Community Energy Scotland (CES) provided advice and support services for a variety of community organisations working in the Islands. The project arose following growing interest across Western Isles communities about reducing local transport costs and associated emissions and a growing awareness of support such as funding and advice for community-led sustainable transport projects. The project was funded by Paths for All, The Robertson Trust, The Pebble Trust and Western Isles Development Trust
WIEiM followed on from Uist Energy in Motion, a more localised project delivered in 2019, and focussed delivered in two main ways; firstly, gathering and sharing information about local transport, needs and capacities alongside educating community groups on sustainable transport modes, and secondly, helping community groups to secure funding and develop projects.
In order to inform these activity streams we began by conducting a Baseline Survey with community organisations on their experiences of sustainable transport. Whilst helping to gather information on individual project ideas and targets the survey revealed trends across the Outer Hebrides. Despite having a good general awareness of most sustainable transport modes, respondents had less awareness of purchase and running costs of different modes, funding opportunities and community case studies. These findings were used to inform the development of webinars and workshops and helped to target these resources to the areas of most value to community organisations across the Outer Hebrides.
WIEiM delivered a series of webinars about sustainable transport opportunities, such as e-bikes, electric vehicles and active travel pathways. These workshops took a more detailed look at various aspects or modes of sustainable transport, covering the benefits, considerations, case studies, costs and funding sources for options such as e-bikes, electric vehicles, active travel infrastructure, community transport and mobility hubs. The webinars were well attended at the time and have also served as a useful resource for subsequent inquires as they contain many useful links and pieces of information relevant for community groups.
During this period one to one support was also available for any organisation with sustainable transport interests. The nature of this support varied with organisations levels of experience and interest, sometimes being just an introductory chat and discussion of local transport needs and the various options which might work in a local area, other times groups were provided with specific technical advice or given assistance with funding applications. This service continued throughout the year and connected with groups from Barra, Uist, Harris and Lewis, helping 10 community organisations to succeed in funding applications and bringing over £250,000 of investment in sustainable transport projects to the Outer Hebrides.
Prior to WIEiM there was only 1 e-bike project operating across the Islands; following the success of the project there are now 5 community groups who have launched, or are launching, their own e-bike sharing schemes all of whom received support through WIEiM. Additionally, projects involving an e-cargo bike, community transport and EV charging have all received support from WIEiM and been launched in the last year.
WIEiM was also an important learning experience for CES in working on sustainable transport and helped build contacts with other organisations working on community sustainable transport. Communities across Scotland are increasingly interested in, and active on, local transport projects and we feel it’s important CES can evolve to support such projects. We have transferred many learnings from WIEiM into our Network 76 project in the South West of Scotland which takes a similar approach but builds around an established partnership of 6 community development trusts. Find out more about the project here. We’re excited to continue supporting communities with sustainable transport ideas and projects!
Heat pumps can offer a viable alternative for many homes to transition from fossil fuel-based heating systems to a much cleaner system.
There is currently little data on how heat pumps operate over time after their installation, and what factors impact their performance. Community Energy Scotland (CES) are looking to target this head on with the Heat Pump Plus (HPPlus) project.
What will the project do?
HPPlus is looking to gather high quality data on the factors which dictate how effective heat pumps operate, and the impact energy efficiency measures can have. The project will collect information on the heating system in place; deploy energy monitoring equipment (to monitor the heat pump’s electricity consumption and in some cases heat output); capture participants’ heating habits as well as perception and understanding of the heat pump system. From this information, HPPlus will, where possible, propose measures to increase the performance of their heating system which could help contribute to energy savings.
Participants with installed energy monitoring equipment will have access to the real time data being collected. The equipment will then be gifted at the end of the project to allow continued monitoring by the homeowner.
The project will first focus efforts on Orkney, as a test bed before for the project’s approach, ahead of potential roll out in other regions.
Who is this project for?
Those with properties in Orkney which are occupied all year round with heat pumps, or those who are scheduled to have a heat pump installed in the next 6-months
Homeowners who would like assistance in understanding how effectively their heat pump is operating
Those who are happy to actively contribute towards the data collection and are open to energy efficiency measures
How can I take part?
If you would like to find out more, or register your interest in the project if you live in Orkney, please contact:
Energy in Motion is a year-long project, started in 2020, aiming to raise awareness of sustainable transport opportunities amongst community groups across the Western Isles. Through this project Community Energy Scotland is able to provide an advice and support service for Western Isles community organisations who are interested in sustainable transport projects.
A survey of the organisations was conducted initially, to gauge the levels of interest, and the knowledge of and experience with sustainable transport projects. More than 10 community groups have since approached us for support with related funding applications.
As part of WIEiM Community Energy Scotland is planning sustainable transport awareness events and try out sessions for e-bikes and electric vehicles in 2021. This includes a Western Isles Sustainable Transport festival, a month long event which would take place in Spring 2021 and combine various challenges and events to raise awareness about sustainable transport. These activities will of course be based around any covid restrictions that may be in place at the time.
We have embarked on the delivery of a WIEiM webinar series, focusing on sustainable transport opportunities for groups in the Western Isles – these webinars have been designed and delivered in lieu of in-person awareness raising events which have been postponed till 2021.
The majority of funding for WIEiM is from Paths for All, with further support from the Western Isles Development Trust, the Robertson Trust and the Pebble Trust.
Orkney suffers high levels of fuel poverty, and lost generation and revenue due to grid curtailment, while having some of the highest wind generation capacity. For the islands of Rousay and Eday, an average of >45 % of production (nearly £500k lost revenue combined per annum) when curtailment first started to impede generation. The Heat Smart Orkney (HSO) project (funded by the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund) provides a smart solution by connecting the community owned wind turbines to the heating of local homes.
Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Development Trust led HSO, with delivery support from Community Energy Scotland. A technology partner developed an aggregator platform to monitor signals from the distribution system operator’s (DSO’s) Active Management System to the turbine and control the demand-side management (DSM) load (264kW of hot water cylinders and storage heaters) to the benefit of the turbine. This required the DSM loads to react fast enough to be relevant to the project’s goals.
The funded project was completed in 2019 however the community will continue to fund the project as it is now starting to show live matching as a business-as-usual activity. It has already fed learnings into two multi-million-pound projects in Orkney, with implications for the rest of the UK.
Over 70 properties benefited from the project. Energy fuels across project properties saw a total drop, due to displacement or efficiency measures, of 4,700 litres of oil; 8,000kg of coal and wood; and 20.4MWh of electricity. However, the benefits went beyond being able to reduce fuel costs and increase generation, including: energy advice; increased sense of ownership of local energy; increased revenue for community projects; employment for 3 isle residents.
A key aim of HSO was to reduce fuel poverty. A rebate compensated homeowners for the additional power used in their home at a higher cost than the alternative provision of heat (oil, coal, etc). Due to its success, the rebate rate was doubled to promote further incentive.
The concept behind the Surf ‘n Turf project is to enable Orkney to both make and use more electricity locally; to reduce fossil fuels imports and CO2 emissions; and to support Orkney communities and companies to herness locally sourced energy.
The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has invested in an electrolyser to use power from tidal turbines operating at the company’s test site off Eday to produce hydrogen by splitting water.
To build on this, Community Energy Scotland and partners created Surf ‘n’ Turf, so that power from Eday Renewable Energy’s community wind turbine can also be used to produce hydrogen using EMEC’s electrolyser.
Hydrogen can be stored, so it is shipped to Kirkwall where a hydrogen fuel cell is housed on Kirkwall Pier. The fuel cell converts the hydrogen back into electricity by mixing it with oxygen from the air. This electricity can power facilities in the Harbour area, and the ferries when docked.
Watch this three-minute video explaining what the Surf ‘n’ Turf project involves and how the technology works.
In addition, the Surf ‘n’ Turf project is building this fuel cell to marine standards, as it would be on a ship, which will create a unique UK facility to allow mariners to train in Orkney for any future hydrogen powered vessel.
And the future?
Through Surf ’n’ Turf, Orkney is pioneering practical uses of hydrogen. Training and new opportunities with clean fuels are potentially of significance to shipping and other industries – as well as to communities that are rich in renewable energy resources, but have grid issues of their own.
The Surf ’n’ Turf project has attracted £1.46 million in development funding from the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund.
It is co-funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme, under the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking.
The project is led by Community Energy Scotland, alongside partners EMEC, Orkney Island Council, Eday Renewable Energy and ITM Power.
Between August 2017 and April 2019, PITCHES integrated with the pre-existing Surf ‘n’ Turf and BIG HIT projects in Orkney as a basis for assessing the market potential for renewable hydrogen systems serving remote communities, including those in sub-Saharan Africa, showing that hydrogen-based energy systems have the potential to reduce reliance on imported fuels, reduce carbon emissions, and in future as the technology develops, to reduce energy costs.
The Malawi / Southern Africa element of the PITCHES project explored the replicability of such systems to isolated, off-grid communities in Sub Saharan Africa, by testing configurations of the system, and identifying business models which best suit off-grid communities in developing countries. In the developing world, there are many remote communities with little or no grid access – the Energy Africa campaign estimates that 70% of the Sub-Saharan population is without electricity access, and 50% of businesses there view a lack of reliable power as a major barrier to business. Whilst other energy storage technologies, such as batteries, may be more suitable for the smallest communities, integrated hydrogen systems could have potential to support medium sized communities with hydrogen mini-grids, and also the potential in future to support nascent enterprises and industries through providing local transport fuel.
In 2018 Mark Hull & Rona Mackay visited Community Energy Malawi (CEM) to work on the PITCHES project with our sister organisation. After visiting CEM’s offices in Lilongwe and meeting the staff there, they embarked on a trip around Malawi with Edgar Bayani (CEM CEO) and Chawazi Gondwe (PITCHES Development Officer) to visit some of the micro-grids in villages across Malawi.
In Chikwawa, South of Blantyre, they visited two projects on different scales where solar panels were charging batteries and lights which were then loaned out to businesses and households to provide power and light. In the West they called into Sitolo where CES and CEM are supporting three villages and who were soon to have their micro-grid installed. Electricity is supplied directly to the houses in this instance.
Kasangazi and two neighbouring villages
In the North Rona and Mark met Corled Nkosi who developed and hand built the Kasangazi Hydro and supported the creation of two further hydros in nearby villages. Over 2,000 people have benefitted from Corled’s determination and skills.
Power from the hydro is supplied to Corled’s village on handmade poles with bare copper wires. Although rudimentary the three hydros are life-changing for local villagers, giving the school light in the evenings for pupils to study, electric bulbs in homes to replace candles and oil lamps which have health and safety risks. There is now also supply to a local garage enabling a business to grow and bring much needed economic activity to the area.
Thank you to Community Energy Malawi for hosting our visit. In return we were able to share our knowledge and practical experience of using hydrogen in Orkney with the CEM team when they came to visit us in 2019.
The Hoprigshiels site was developed jointly with Berwickshire Housing Association, a Registered Social Landlord, in 2017 providing homes for over a fifth of households in Berwickshire. This project also provides an annual community benefit payment of £37,500 (plus inflation) to the communities closest to the wind farm site, to be spent on whatever they identify as their priorities.
By supplying energy to the National Grid, the wind farm will create revenue for BHA of around £20 million over the next 25 years – enough to allow them to build 500 new homes over that period. Community Energy Scotland’s £10 million share of the revenue will enable us to support communities across the country to develop and benefit from renewable energy projects and play a crucial part in building a greener energy system.
The development and construction of the site was project-managed by Community Energy Scotland staff, and the site has been connected to the grid under an innovative Active Network Management scheme, allowing us to start generating before local transmission upgrades have been completed.