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.

An N76 Adventure: Learning Visit to Beattock Station Action Group and Ettrick & Yarrow Development Trust

On a windy, rainy and downright Scottish November morning, the N76 in Motion group and guests set off on a learning visit to two community-driven transport projects in Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders.

A huge thank you to Tony, our volunteer driver from Thornhill and District Community Transport, for braving the downpour and getting us to our destinations safely.

Our first stop was in Beattock, where Ron from Beattock Station Action Group showed us the proposed sites for Beattock railway station and explained their long-standing and community-backed campaign for improved rail links with the central belt and elsewhere in Scotland. The campaign for a station at Beattock mirrors a similar issue in the N76 area, where community members are attempting to have the station at Thornhill reopened. Both Beattock and Thornhill are located on railway lines, but are more than 10 miles away from their closest stations. This makes it difficult for community members to travel further afield without relying on car ownership. Ron gave us some great insight into the work that has gone into the decade-long campaign for Beattock station and was happy to answer questions from our enthusiastic group. You can learn more about the campaign at Beattock Station Action Group | Keeping up to date with the plan to re-open Beattock Station.

The group refuelled at the famous Brodies of Moffat, where we were joined by Vicky from Annandale Community Transport Service. Good discussions were had with Vicky, as well as Selina from Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway and Stephen from Cairn Valley Community Transport, who joined us on the trip. It was a great experience to get everyone together and talk about something we are all invested in: Improving low-carbon transport options for the community. And after the long bus journey, the excellent food was particularly welcome.

Refreshed and energised, we set off into the hills past Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall, which was in full torrent. Our final destination was the old Ettrick primary school in the Scottish Borders, which is now the home of Ettrick & Yarrow Community Development Company. EYCDC is a development trust like the N76 partners, with a similar interest in low-carbon transport options. Key to this effort are the e-bikes, which locals and holidaymakers can rent for transport and recreation around Ettrick. EYCDC made sure to purchase e-bikes that can cope with the hilly local terrain and forest tracks, making them great all-rounders.

Other exciting projects include the electric car and charging point, used for business activities as well as for helping the local community. The development trusts were also eager to hear about the conversion of a farmstead into sustainable, affordable housing and business units, which are almost ready for their new occupants. And, perhaps more suited to visiting on a sunny day, EYCDC has developed a path encircling St Mary’s Loch – the organisation’s first major project, completed in 2015. To learn more about these and other projects, visit Projects (

Our day concluded with a discussion on the many links between N76 partner projects and those of EYCDC, as well as some Q&A on their many projects. We enjoyed the cosy log burner for a little longer before climbing into the minibus and setting off home.

As part of the N76 project, we are running learning and networking events throughout the year including our visit to Beattock and EYCDC. Over the next few months, other events will be announced based on specific aspects of low-carbon transport that interest the N76 partners. These events are open to the public and there are a mixture of in-person and online formats. To keep up with the N76 project and sign up to our events, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

N76 Energy in Motion

Project Overview 

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 
  • New Cumnock Development Trust, New Cumnock Parish  

How can I keep up with the project? 

To keep up with project updates, sign up to events and get in touch, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter or email You can also check the latest N76 blog in our Blog space. 

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 – 2022 update

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.

Tagsa Uibhist community transport

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!

Network 76 in Motion

Exciting New Role being advertised at CES

Network 76 in Motion (N76) is a multi-year community project aiming to develop sustainable transport solutions and networks with and for a partnership of community trusts connected by, or near to, the A76, including New Cumnock Development Trust, Kirkconnel and Kelloholm Development Trust, Sanquhar Enterprise Company, Kier, Penpoint and Tynron Development Trust, Nith Valley Leaf Trust and Moniaive Initiative. Community Energy Scotland will manage and deliver the project. N76 hopes to provide sustainable transport reports to all the communities involved with the first year of the project targeting staff, volunteers and board members of the community groups involved, focussing on the two initial stages of behaviour change, pre-contemplation and contemplation, by baseline setting and capacity building.


Image copyright: James Johnstone

Moniaive Initiative is a community-led community organisation, established in 2013, to deliver legacy projects to the rurally remote parish of Glencairn. At the heart of our community is Moniaive, a Conservation Village at the meeting of three glens. In a time when other communities are losing amenities, Moniaive manages to support a primary school, village grocery store & post office, medical practice, garage & filling station, two hotels, an Italian restaurant, and a wide range of other home businesses.

In our first round of local consultation in 2015/16 we identified local transport and connection issues as a potential barrier to future community development. Poor transport impacts on local access to key facilities and services, including employment and healthcare. At that time those barriers felt beyond the control of a small, recently established local development trust. The recent Covid emergency, though, has increased our sense of ‘remoteness’, and made us realise just how important our connections to other nearby communities are.

We have full-funding in place for this project for 1 year and plan to seek further funding for future years.

Getting access to an EV is important but how can you?

It doesn’t matter how great low carbon transport technology is if only a minority can access it. That is true of electric vehicles (EVs) also. To reach net zero, we don’t all have to buy an EV to replace each one of our petrol/diesel cars and vans. In fact, I think we shouldn’t. There are alternatives to buying an EV. This would directly contribute to the urgent need to reduce the number of vehicles manufactured each year while phasing out fossil fueled vehicles. In any sustainable transport system multiple ways to access travel have to be taken into consideration.

Active travel like walking and cycling, and the infrastructure to make this safe, should be maximised where possible, and public transport improved. However, sometimes a car or van is needed.

I work for Community Energy Scotland and have been working on the ReFLEX Orkney project (part funded by UKRI) which is aiming to decarbonise the local system in Orkney by building a smart local energy system. Transport is just one element of the project and I want to share with you some of the solutions we’ve been looking at to increase people’s access to low carbon cars and vans: Community Transport, Car Clubs, and leasing of EVs.

Community Transport

Community Energy Scotland have supported island communities to own and operate EVs to aid residents get around areas where there is no alternative public transport. Rather than have a big EV minibus, multiple smaller EVs were preferred by three of the island communities we’ve worked with as it allows more flexibility to operate the services they provide. A smaller vehicle is better for accessing properties that have long & narrow or bumpy access roads. There’s more confidence that if one EV battery is low, it can be charged while the other is used. Both can be used for totally different trips at the same time and quite often a smaller vehicle would suffice for the journey.

Each island group has decided to operate two eNV200s. One a seven seater, and one a five seater with wheelchair access. The wheelchair access ramp folds away so doubles up as a very large boot for deliveries of goods when wheelchair access isn’t required. During the first lockdown this was very useful as it helped the communities to offer essential deliveries including food and medicines.

It’s also given the communities a chance to fill in transport gaps and supplement statutory or council services. For instance, some of the vehicles are being used to fulfil school bus contracts. All in all, this is a solution that is really flexible to meet the needs of the community.

Image credit: Community Energy Scotland
Image credit: ReFLEX/Colin Keldie

Car Clubs

The ReFLEX project contracted Co-wheels to run two electric car club locations alongside the three that were set up in Orkney just before the pandemic. Co-wheels car club is a pay-as-you-go electric car hire scheme. There is no upfront cost if joining as part of the ReFLEX project and is just £4.13 per hour to hire in Orkney. There aren’t reams of paperwork to fill out every time you want to book an EV and there is no key swapping as you access the car via your smart card, issued to you when you sign up.

Both locations are close to ferry terminals that connect the outer and inner Orkney islands so residents can be foot passengers and pick up the car club car on the other side. CoMoUK (The charity for the public benefit of shared cars, bikes, e‑scooters and rides) has gathered evidence across many locations in the UK of an increased uptake of active travel when there is access to a car club and that fewer vehicles are purchased.

Image credit: ReFLEX/Colin Keldie


Leasing is another option if you need sole use of a vehicle rather than any of the options above. The ‘lifetime cost’ of an EV is less than that of a petrol/diesel and leasing greatly reduces one of the main barriers to realise this saving, the initial cost. The difference in the initial cost between an old petrol/diesel and a second-hand EV can be staggering and it may not be possible for some of us to afford that cost. Leasing still has an initial cost in the order of £1000 but this is significantly less than buying it outright. This would then be followed by monthly payments for the duration of the lease.


I challenge you to look at the low carbon transport options near you and try them out! Is it safe to walk or cycle? Is there a car club? Does your local community run a transport service? If the answers are ‘no’ but you want them to be ‘yes’, get in touch with your local council and community groups.

Eibhlin Lee, Trading Manager @CES. Original blog written for ‘This is Engineering Day’, IoM3 as the then CES ReFLEX Project Manager

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.


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.   

Watch this video for an overview of CEM’s work in Malawi.

Chikwawa and Sitolo 

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. 

Read the full report here



Clever switching in SMILE

Community Energy Scotland in Orkney is taking the lead for the whole UK as the European Union explores ‘Smart Island Energy systems’ – ways for islands to capitalise upon their energy resources. 

SMILE joins a suite of projects across Scotland where CES is working with partners to overcome grid constraints so that community owned renewables can create local confidence and value, help people reduce their energy costs, strengthen local services, and promote skills and employment. 

Increasing and managing the local electricity demand in Orkney will allow more renewable energy generation. Generators there are frequently curtailed due to the limited grid capacity within the island archipelago. When community owned wind turbines increase their electricity production, the proceeds directly benefit the local residents. 

Several approaches are being tested, including: 

  • Integration of battery technology
  • Electric power to heat
  • Electric power to fuel
  • Pumped hydro
  • Electric vehicles
  • Electricity stored aboard boats

Home heating and electric vehicle charging will be a large part of the Orkney trials. 

Local partners will upgrade already established equipment to be more energy efficient and to act in a ‘grid-smart’ way – in other words with the ability to respond to and assist the local electric grid and renewable energy supply. 

Operating in real-life conditions will show how well the electric vehicle chargers, domestic heat pumps, household batteries and hot water stores suit local circumstances. 

Key to making it work will be ensuring participants in the project experience little or no disruption to their normal routine. 

The SMILE project – – has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement 731249. 


ReFLEX – Responsive Flexibility – is widely regarded as an energy system of the future and will be demonstrated in Orkney by a consortium of six locally-based partners.

  • April 2019 – The first phase of a new £28.5 million project to create an Integrated Energy System (IES) in Orkney, Scotland, was launched to digitally link distributed and intermittent renewable generation to flexible demand
  • The ReFLEX Orkney project will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind IES interlinking local electricity, transport, and heat networks into one controllable, overarching system
  • The creation of a ‘smart energy island’ is the ultimate aim of the project, demonstrating the energy system of the future, reducing and eventually eliminating the need for fossil fuels
  • The project is funded by UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
  • ReFLEX Orkney Ltd and the ReFLEX website was launched in December 2020

This brilliant news is built on the high level of collaboration between enabled communities and energy innovators in Orkney. A successful partnership that has started to show how we can supply and manage local energy in a more sustainable and equitable way, and, with this project, we all have an outstanding opportunity to further test and develop the new, fairer, and better future models of ownership and value systems pioneered by communities like those in Orkney

Nicholas Gubbins, CEO of Community Energy Scotland

At the heart of the project is the demonstration of flexible energy balancing technologies. For example, the project aims to deploy:

  • Up to 500 domestic batteries
  • Up to 100 business and large-scale batteries
  • Up to 200 Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) chargers
  • Up to 600 new electrical vehicles (EVs)
  • An island community-powered electric bus and e-bike integrated transport system
  • Up to 100 flexible heating systems

A FlexiGrid software platform, newly designed by one of the partners, will be put into effect, enabling smart monitoring and control of the flexible technologies to charge during periods of peak local renewable generation, and release stored energy during times of peak demand.

These technologies will be introduced under attractive leasing-type finance and novel ways of ownership with the aim of the end user avoiding major capital investment – this will include individuals and local organisations.

This pioneering project will help Orkney maximise the potential of its significant renewable generation capabilities, help to ensure higher quality and more affordable energy services, as well as further lowering the county’s carbon footprint by decreasing reliance on imported carbon-intensive grid electricity from the UK mainland.

“We need cheaper, cleaner and flexible energy and Orkney will be at the heart of this.

“We all need energy systems that are cheaper, cleaner and consumer-friendly. We have a great opportunity with the ReFLEX project to show just how innovation can deliver this energy ambition for the future. Supported by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, ReFLEX can drive investment, create high-quality jobs and grow companies with export potential,”

Rob Saunders, Deputy Challenge Director, Prospering from the Energy Revolution, UK Research and Innovation

Once demonstrated and proven in Orkney, it is expected that the IES model and associated integrated energy service supply framework will be reproduced in other areas across the UK and internationally, building long term export opportunities for the ReFLEX project partners and helping to expand the flexible and renewable-based energy systems.

Keep up to date on our News page

ReFLEX Partners

 “What we are seeing here on Orkney is a test bed for the energy system of the future. These smart systems are a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy and will provide cheaper, greener and more flexible access to energy for everyone. What we learn from these innovations could one day be rolled out across the UK and exported around the world and we’ll be able to say it was ‘Made in Orkney’,”

Claire Perry, Energy and Clean Growth Minister 2017-2019

Update: The ReFLEX project drew to a close on 31 March 2023.

The ReFLEX project has resulted in many significant changes for Community Energy Scotland, the project partners, and the Orkney communities as a whole. The partnership collaboration, along with the funding from the UK Government’s Prospering from the Energy Revolution (PfER) fund, enabled multiple successes during the last 4 years.  In addition to the overarching achievement from all the partners, CES was able to build upon local efforts to shift the transport sector towards zero emissions with the expansion of electric vans and bikes on four of the islands, and support the growth of a fully electric car club.  Our support to homeowners in Orkney included the rollout of over 100 energy monitor, to allow access to real-time data on how people are using energy within their home, together with work where we assessed the project’s customer offerings to be as inclusive as possible. CES is grateful for the opportunities presented through the project’s funding, and has already begun building upon the results and learnings achieved as a result of it.

Watch the YouTube video here for the detailed outcomes and lessons learned.

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