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.
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.
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.
“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.