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:
A reinvented community energy sector could play a key role in making the net zero transition a socially just one; but it will need support from policy.
Looking long term
Today, the dominant activity in UK community energy – at least in terms of what brings in money – is renewable electricity generation, at small and medium scales. But getting new projects of this sort up and running has been much harder since the closure of the Feed-in Tariff scheme two years ago.
Now obviously, community energy groups are NOT just in it for the money, and they’re not strangers to working for free! Nevertheless, spending power is, well, power. You can use it to pay staff, supporting the local economy and ensuring your organisation survives; to support other local groups; or build affordable housing. So the question arises – where will it come from in the future? And not just next month, or next year, but in the longer term?
Here is where the current talk in energy policy circles, of the future energy system being decentralised, decarbonised, and ‘consumer’ centred, seems to offer bright prospects to community energy. So, amid the end-of-FITs gloom, we brought practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders together to scope out a hopeful long term vision. We asked them to picture a future where community energy is thriving. What do you see community energy groups doing? How are they organised? And crucially: who needs to do what to make it happen?
Expanded and diversified
The key message is that community energy could become much more than electricity generation, but could spread into all parts of the energy system. Yes they would still generate electricity – but they would sell it to local customers as well as national wholesalers, and they would trade flexible demand on behalf of local residents. They would using pricing power and technical know-how to address fuel poverty and the digital divide. Some would run ‘mixed mobility’ services – buses, car clubs and more; or heat networks in off-gas-grid areas and new-build developments. Some organisations might focus on one or two complementary activities – others might embrace many, as illustrated in our graphic. But through this technological change, the focus is always on social and environmental outcomes.
Achieving this would require change in the shape and scale of community energy – as shown in the graphic. The boundaries of the sector might become ‘fuzzy’, with partnerships with other community groups, housing bodies and local authorities more common.
We also saw potential for more partnerships with other community energy groups across multiple localities, in a member-controlled Confederation. This would be a ‘coop of coops’ style organisation, a bit like Energy4All or the emerging Big Solar Coop, but on an even larger scale. Its purpose would be to help resolve the perennial tension between achieving economies of scale, and preserving local groups’ roots in their communities. This would require a shift in thinking for the sector, perhaps. But, with E4A and others (also e.g. Communities for Renewables) paving the way, more evolution than revolution.
Making it happen
If this vision sounds good, the big question is: how to make it happen? Community energy activists have plenty of experience of learning new technologies and adapting to change. This, and their skills in partnership working, will be called on increasingly in the future. But there will need to be policy changes too. The list is long, but includes central government regulating to give smaller players a better chance of surviving the energy market; and governments from devolved to regional to local levels purchasing from and investing in community energy.
Yet policymakers may see the sector as inevitably small, whose role in the energy transition is more about cultural change than operational delivery. Of course, community energy has long argued that it is about ‘more than megawatts’. But our vision shows the sector with a significant operational role. How to convince the policymakers that this is desirable – and feasible?
Firstly, ideas matter; and the concept of ‘Just Transition’ could be important. Scotland launched its own Just Transition Commission last year. Wales has had a Wellbeing of Future Generations Act for some time. Some might argue that a techno-transition could be managed top-down. But surely an inclusive and just energy transition needs, not just grassroots participation, but grassroots power and ownership?
Secondly, dare we say it, policymakers could be directed to look to Europe. Severalcountries have large, operationally-focussed community and cooperative energy sectors. Why can’t the UK?
Finally, evidence of the benefits of community energy is important. I’m looking forward to reading the latest research on this from CAG Consultants, launched in Community Energy Fortnight – and hope this can play a part in setting us on the road to a thriving future for community energy.
At Community Energy Scotland we value our team’s and communities’ opinions. Blogs are a chance for us, our members and guests to share personal opinions and expertise, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Community Energy Scotland as an organisation. Please note opinions may change and Community Energy Scotland does not offer any endorsements.
A new ground-breaking local energy company, ReFLEX Orkney Ltd, has launched a range of new low-carbon transport and power services exclusive to Orkney residents and businesses to further decarbonise the island’s energy system.
This is a major milestone for the £28.5 million ReFLEX Orkney project which is part funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and match funded by private investment.
Orkney already generates over 100% of its electricity demand annually from renewables. The project aims to help the community takes full advantage of its renewable energy potential, putting Orkney at the forefront of demonstrating how to reduce carbon, abate climate change, and protect wellbeing, livelihoods and the ecosystem; a top priority for governments, as well as wider society.
At the heart of the project is the demonstration of flexibility using technologies like batteries, electric vehicles, smart chargers and smart meters, which are being made available via affordable lease and other financing helping customers to avoid large upfront costs.
The project is also creating larger-scale and community-focused initiatives such as electric buses, a local electric car club and the integration of green hydrogen for storage and transport.
A key part of the ReFLEX service offering is the ReFLEX support team who will help guide and support energy customers to a decarbonised solution that best suits their needs. The aim is to be a one-stop-shop for all energy service needs.
The new services are available exclusively to Orkney residents who are members of ReFLEX. Membership is free to join, and members are supplied with up-to-date information about the latest service offers as well as topical information about new technologies, approaches and top tips for increasing energy efficiency and affordability.
The initial ReFLEX services include:
Electric vehicle leasing: to increase the use of electric vehicles, the ReFLEX leasing model offers a wide range of market leading EV’s with strong financial incentives for early adoption. The vehicles range from ZOEs to Teslas, minis to estate cars, with a variety of vans available too. The vehicles are supplied through the UKs leading EV leasing business, DriveElectric. The leases include benefits tailored to the needs of Orcadians such as use of a longer-range vehicle for trips off Orkney. A selection of vehicles are available for test drives in Orkney.
Electric vehicle chargers for off-street parking: The ReFLEX team will help support with grant applications to cover most of the cost of a new charger and installation, and support grid and planning permission applications. These home car chargers will enable faster charging and charge scheduling to help manage energy use.
New 100% renewable electricity tariffs: ReFLEX is committed to helping customers access the most appropriate electricity supply tariff for their needs. Supplied by Shell Energy Retail, the residents of Orkney have the choice of two tariffs at launch: the ReFLEX Orkney tariff, a flat, low rate tariff; and ReFLEX Orkney Charge and Drive which includes the equivalent of 2,000 free miles for your electric vehicle. Each tariff comes with smart meter installation – a great tool to help track energy consumption and reduce energy waste.
Fully electric pay-as-you-go car club: In addition to the individual car leasing options ReFLEX has teamed up with Co-wheels to introduce new EVs into the local car club. When signing up to Co-wheels, use the REFLEX1 code to access £25 of start-up credit and a 25% discount.
ReFLEX Orkney is currently developing additional services to launch in 2021, including battery storage for linking with micro-generation and a heating installation service to help lower bills and reduce carbon emissions. ReFLEX aims to continue to develop and broaden the range of offerings taking on board feedback from the community.
Further details about the ReFLEX membership and services* are available on ReFLEX’s newly launched website – www.reflexorkney.co.uk – and the customer services team are available via email or phone to discuss options. *ReFLEX membership and services are available to Orkney residents only.
A dedicated shop for ReFLEX Orkney is due to open on the Kirkwall high street in the new year where customers can speak to the customer services team directly, and a roadshow is being developed to take ReFLEX to various locations across the Orkney Islands.
“The launch of ReFLEX Orkney Ltd and the range of products and services is a major milestone for the ReFLEX Orkney project. We are pioneering an integrated, affordable, low-carbon energy system in Orkney which can then be used as a blueprint for other locations.
“A key aim for ReFLEX is to encourage early adoption of these technologies, as well as inspiring community participation in the drive to decarbonise Orkney. By becoming a member of ReFLEX, the community can help us shape it and demonstrate how communities can create smart local energy systems. In return we will help the community access affordable low carbon technologies and services, and better understand and manage their energy use.
“This is very timely as the UK government has just announced an end of the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2030 as part of an ambitious plan for green industrial revolution, and yet again Orkney is ahead of the curve, ready to demonstrate to the nation.”
Gareth Davies, Managing Director of ReFLEX Orkney Ltd
“ReFLEX Orkney is a ground-breaking project in the Energy Revolution Challenge. The approach the ReFLEX team is taking combines abundant renewable energy resources with thorough engagement with local communities and organisations alongside the development of a joined-up, affordable, low-carbon energy system in Orkney.
“Clean energy delivered across smart and efficient local networks will play a major role in achieving the net zero goals of 2050. Today’s launch of a new range of low-carbon transport and power services to further decarbonise the Orkney energy system highlights the opportunities that are available to the UK through this kind of innovation.”
Rob Saunders, Challenge Director, Prospering from the Energy Revolution, UK Research and Innovation