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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 – www.h2020smile.eu – 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
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.
“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