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Outer Hebrides featured in international energy transition research

Published: 28/03/2024

An Energy Local Club, where communities work together to match energy supply and demand and invest in clean energy, offers a solution to reduce household energy costs in the Outer Hebrides, where 40 per cent of the population live in fuel poverty.

An international research project also highlighted exploring energy storage solutions and the importance of helping householders understand the best energy efficiency measures and domestic renewable energy technologies. The project focused on putting local communities at the heart of achieving a low carbon future.

The Responsible Research and Innovation Policy Experimentations for Energy Transition project (RIPEET) examined the impacts and benefits of bringing together communities, businesses, academia, government and the environmental sector to explore and deliver sustainable energy solutions. In particular, RIPEET looked at local energy supply options, energy efficiency strategies, and household renewable generation options to help minimise household bills and address fuel poverty.

The three-year project was funded from the EU’s largest ever research and innovation programme, the €80bn Horizon 2020. As well as the Highlands and Islands, RIPEET worked with project partners from across Europe and communities in Extremadura in Spain, and Ostrobothnia in Finland.

The Scottish project was managed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Community Energy Scotland (CES), who approved a joint bid by UHI North, West and Hebrides and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to undertake research on the Outer Hebrides local energy economy, as a case study for other Highland and Islands communities.

Sarah Marshall, senior project manager at HIE, said: “The project explored what the ideal regional energy system would look like locally in 15-20 years’ time. With 40 per cent of households in fuel poverty in the Outer Hebrides, this emerged as a priority area of action. The vision is to reduce fuel poverty, improve collaboration and better utilise locally generated energy. The report explores the next steps to achieving that.

“A key to the success of the project was the inspiring partnership with CES, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, UHI North, West and Hebrides, and local organisations. The benefits of working together are clear to see. It’s heartening to see that next steps highlighted through RIPEET are likely to be picked up by other regional energy transition initiatives such as the Islands Centre for Net Zero and Fast Followers.”

The project included €50,000 of funding for an ‘open call’ for a project to help achieve the energy vision. The results of the project have been summarised in two reports. Recommendations included:

  • Establishment of an Energy Local Club to closely match energy supply and demand and where local communities work together to invest in clean energy
  • Exploring an existing research group for piloting energy storage solutions
  • Attracting further investment
  • More support to be given to householders to help them to understand the most appropriate energy efficiency measures and domestic renewable energy technologies.
  • Better understanding of grant availability and application processes.

Island households and installers were surveyed to get their views on the most realistic household strategies for a just and sustainable energy transition.

Dr Michael M Smith, programme leader for MSc in Sustainable Rural Development, a new Masters programme launching at UHI North, West and Hebrides in September, led on the research. He said: “High fuel costs, poor energy efficiency, climatic exposure and below average household incomes all conspire to create a fuel poverty crisis in the islands. 

“Through the EU Horizon funded project, we understand the ongoing challenges better and have been able to explore potential and innovative solutions to support a widespread community-based transition moving forward. I am also delighted that we’ve had the opportunity to share our findings with other regions with similar challenges across Europe and at the same time hear about their solutions to very similar challenges.”

Matthew Logan, Island Centre for Net Zero Outer Hebrides manager at CES, said: "We were really happy to see Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and UHI North, West and Hebrides collaborate on the Outer Hebrides Local Energy Economy Pilot Project as part of RIPEET. Both organisations had been involved in the ‘Transition Lab’ stakeholder group throughout the RIPEET project and therefore had a good understanding of which issues had emerged as energy priorities for local organisations and representatives, primarily enabling locally generated energy to be supplied to householders in the Outer Hebrides. 

“It was great to see the ‘co-creation’ approach embraced by CnES and UHI NWH, this involved regularly discussing the pilot with local stakeholders, in particularly with community groups voicing householders issues, and taking on their feedback to shape the development and outcomes of the project. The work carried out through the pilot project produced useful insight into motivations and challenges householder face when looking to adopt domestic renewable and energy efficiency technologies, as well as reviewing a number of local energy supply models. This has set a good foundation for further research and trial projects which will help address fuel poverty in the Western Isles. 

“Community generators across the Islands have long held the ambitions to supply energy locally and remain interested in exploring the outcomes from the pilot project and being involved in any trial opportunities that emerge.

“We are looking forward to continuing to work on these issues in collaboration with a full range of local partners with community voices at the centre of our efforts. Initiatives such as the Islands Centre for Net Zero provide an ideal opportunity to do so."

Councillor Donald Crichton, said: “With the ongoing uncertainty around energy tariffs and with the cost-of-living crisis continuing to affect our island population, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar welcomed the opportunity to collaborate on this project.

“Undertaking several connected work packages covering a range of technical options to promote the much-needed journey out of fuel poverty, the opportunity to develop a local energy economy, embracing our many renewable energy sources, is now very real. Future scopes including offshore wind, hydrogen and battery storage to address the intermittency of existing renewables, will all bolster the Comhairle’s vision for a locally run energy supply company.

“The RIPEET project has allowed us to review previous strategies and bring new legislations into our island context. Current negotiations with our electricity network distribution operators, along with several related procurement options are being actively progressed. Bolstered by a recently funded Innovate UK post dedicated to reducing fuel poverty through decarbonisation, the Comhairle is making headway into an energy solution for the benefit of all island residents currently using grid-connected electricity and domestic gas.”

The reports from RIPEET are being hosted on the CES website. 

Innse Gall a’ nochdadh ann an rannsachadh air eadar-ghluasad cumhachd eadar-nàiseanta

Tha Club Cumhachd Ionadail, far am bi coimhearsnachdan ionadail ag obair còmhla gus solar agus iarrtas cumhachd a mhaidseadh agus tasgadh ann an cumhachd ghlan, air a chomharrachadh mar aon fhuasgladh ann an cosgaisean cumhachd dachaigheil a lùghdachadh ann an Innse Gall, far a bheil 40 sa cheud den t-sluagh  ann am bochdainn connaidh.  

Bha sgrùdadh air fuasglaidhean stòraidh cumhachd agus cuideachadh theaghlaichean leis na ceumannan èifeachdais cumhachd as fheàrr a thuigsinn còmhla ri teicneòlasan cumhachd ath-nuadhachail dachaigheil, cuideachd nan toraidhean ann am pròiseact rannsachaidh eadar-nàiseanta a chuir coimhearsnachdan aig cridhe lìbhrigidh air càrbon ìosal san àm ri teachd.  

Rinn Deuchainnean Poileasaidh Rannsachaidh is Ùr-ghnàthachaidh Cunntachail airson pròiseact Eadar-ghluasad Cumhachd (RIPEET) sgrùdadh air builean is buadhan a bhith a’ tarraing choimhearsnachdan, gnothachasan, acadaimich, riaghaltas agus an roinn àrainneachdail còmhla gus fuasglaidhean cumhachd seasmhach a rannsachadh agus a lìbhrigeadh. Gu h-àraid, choimhead RIPEET ri roghainnean solair cumhachd ionadail, ro-innleachdan èifeachdais cumhachd, agus roghainnean ginealaich ath-nuadhachail dachaigheil gus cuideachadh le cosgaisean dachaigheil a thoirt gu fìor-lughad agus dèiligeadh ri bochdainn connaidh.

Bha am pròiseact trì-bliadhna maoinichte bhon phrògram rannsachaidh is ùr-ghnàthachaidh as motha a-riamh bhon EU, an Horizon 2020 de €80bn. A thuilleadh air a’ Ghàidhealtachd ’s na h-Eileanan, bha RIPEET ag obair le com-pàirtichean pròiseict bho air feadh na Roinn Eòrpa agus coimhearsnachdan ann an Extremadura san Spàinn, agus Ostrobothnia san Fhionnlainn.

Bha am pròiseact Albannach air a stiùireadh le Iomairt na Gàidhealtachd ’s nan Eilean (HIE) agus Cumhachd Coimhearsnachd Alba (CES), a dh’aontaich co-thairgse bho UHI Tuath, an Iar is Innse Gall agus Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, gus rannsachadh a ghabhail os làimh air eaconamaidh cumhachd ionadail Innse Gall, mar chùis sgrùdaidh do choimhearsnachdan eile na Gàidhealtachd ’s nan Eilean.  

Thuirt Sarah Marshall, àrd-mhanaidsear phròiseactan aig HIE: “Rinn am pròiseact rannsachadh air cò ris a bhiodh siostam cumhachd roinneil barraichte coltach gu h-ionadail ann an 15-20 bliadhna. Le 40 sa cheud de dhachaighean ann am bochdainn connaidh ann an Innse Gall, thàinig seo am bàrr mar phrìomh adhbhar gnìomha. Is e an lèirsinn bochdainn connaidh a lùghdachadh, co-obrachadh a leasachadh agus cumhachd air a ghinteadh gu h-ìonadail ùisneachadh nas fheàrr. Tha an aithisg a’ rannsachadh na h-ath cheumannan a dh’ionnsaigh sin a choileanadh.  

“B’ e an com-pàirteachas brosnachail eadar CES, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, UHI Tuath, an Iar is Innse Gall agus buidhnean ionadail, a bha aig cridhe an t-soirbheachaidh air a’ phròiseact. Tha na buannachdan an lùib a bhith ag obair còmhla soilleir gu leòr am faicinn. Tha e misneachail fhaicinn gu bheil na h-ath cheumannan tro RIPEET coltach ri bhith air an taghadh le iomairtean eadar-ghluasad cumhachd roinneil eile, leithid Ionad nan Eilean do Neoini Lom agus Fast Followers.”

Bha am pròiseact a’ gabhail a-steach €50,000 de mhaoineachadh airson ‘gairm fosgailte’ do phròiseact a chuidicheadh leis an lèirsinn cumhachd a choileanadh. Tha toraidhean a’ phròiseict air an geàrr-iomradh ann an dà aithisg agus mholaidhean, a’ gabhail a-steach:

  • Club Cumhachd Ionadail a stèidheachadh gus solar is iarrtas cumhachd a mhaidseadh gu dlùth, far a bheil coimhearsnachdan ionadail ag obair còmhla gus tasgadh ann an cumhachd ghlan
  • Buidheann rannsachaidh a tha an làthair fhaotainn gus fuasglaidhean stòraidh cumhachd a phìleatadh
  • Barrachd tasgaidh a tharraing
  • Barrachd taic fheumalachdan a thoirt do dhachaighean gus an cuideachadh leis na ceumannan èifeachdais cumhachd as iomchaidhe a thuigsinn, còmhla ri teicneòlasan cumhachd ath-nuadhachail dachaigheil
  • - Faotainneachd thabhartasan agus pròiseasan tagraidh a thuigsinn nas fheàrr.

Chaidh suirbhidh a dhèanamh air dachaighean is stàlaichearan sna h-eileanan airson am beachdan fhaighinn air na ro-innleachdan dachaigheil as fheumaile, airson eadar-ghluasad seasmhach is cothromach air cumhachd.

B’ e an Dr Mìcheal M Mac a’ Ghobhainn, stiùiriche prògraim an MSc ann an Leasachadh Dùthchail Seasmhach, prògram ùr Maighstireachd ga fhoillseachadh aig UHI Tuath, an Iar is Innse Gall san t-Sultain, a stiùir an rannsachadh. Thuirt e: “Tha cosgaisean àrda connaidh, èifeachdas cumhachd nach eil làidir, follaiseachadh ri gnàth-shìde, agus teachd-a-steach dhachaighean ìosal, uile a’ cuideachadh le cùis-èiginn bochdainn connaidh a chruthachadh sna h-eileanan.  

“Tron phròiseact maoinichte le EU Horizon, tha sinn a’ tuigsinn nan dùbhlan leantainneach nas fheàrr, agus comasach air fuasglaidhean ùr-ghnàthach a rannsachadh gus taic a chur ri eadar-ghluasad farsaing stèidhichte air coimhearsnachd a’ dol air adhart. Tha mi air leth toilichte cuideachd gun d’ fhuair sinn an cothrom air ar toraidhean a roinn le sgìrean eile aig a bheil na dùbhlain ceudna air feadh na Roinn Eòrpa, agus aig an aon àm cluinntinn mu na fuasglaidhean aca mu choinneamh nan dùbhlan sin.”

Thuirt Matthew Logan, manaidsear Ionad nan Eilean airson Net Zero Hebrides aig CES: "Bha sinn air leth toilichte a bhith a’ faicinn Comhairle nan Eilean Siar agus UHI Tuath, an Iar agus Innse Gall a’ co-obrachadh air Pròiseact Pìleit Eaconamaidh Cumhachd Ionadail Innse Gall mar phàirt de RIPEET. Bha an dà bhuidheann air a bhith an sàs anns a’ bhuidheann luchd-ùidhe "Transition Lab" tro phròiseact RIPEET agus mar sin bha tuigse mhath aca do na cùisean sin a thàinig am bàrr mar phrìomhachasan cumhachd do bhuidhnean agus riochdairean ionadail, sa chiad àite a’ comasachadh do chumhachd air a thàrmachadh gu h-ionadail, a bhith air a sholarachadh do dhachaighean ann an Innse Gall. 

“Bha e fìor mhath a bhith a’ faicinn CnES agus UHI NWH a’ gabhail ri modh-obrach ‘co-chruthachadh’, a bha a’ ciallachadh deasbad cunbhalach air a’ phròiseact le luchd-ùidhe ionadail agus gabhail ris an ais-fhiosrachadh aca gus leasachadh agus builean a’ phròiseict a dhealbhadh. Thug an obair a chaidh a choileanadh tron phròiseact pìleit in-shealladh feumail gu buil air na brosnachaidhean is dùbhlain leis a bheil cinn-teaghlaich a’ dèiligeadh, nuair a tha iad a’ coimhead ri gabhail ri teicneòlasan eìfeachdach cumhachd dachaigheil agus ath-nuadhachail, a thuilleadh air ath-sgrùdadh air àireamh de mhodailean solair cumhachd ionadail. Tha seo air bun-stèidh math a shuidheachadh airson tuilleadh rannsachaidh agus pròiseactan deuchainn a chuidicheas le dèiligeadh ri bochdainn connaidh sna h-Eileanan an Iar. 

“Tha na h-àrd-amasan air a bhith aig gineadairean coimhearsnachd air feadh nan Eilean o chionn fhada gus cumhachd a sholarachadh gu h-ionadail agus tha ùidh fhathast aca ann a bhtih a’ rannsachadh builean a’ phròiseict pìleat agus a bhith an sàs ann an cothroman deuchainn sam bith a thig am bàrr.

“Tha sinn a’ coimhead air adhart ri leantainn ag obair air na cùisean sin ann an co-obrachadh le làn raon de chom-pàirtichean ionadail tro iomairtean leithid Ionad nan Eilean airson Neoini Lom."

Thuirt an Comhairliche Dòmhnall Crichton: “Leis a’ mhì-chinnt leantainneach mu thimcheall chìsean cumhachd agus le cùis-èiginn bith-beò a’ cumail air adhart a’ toirt buaidh air ar n-àireamh-sluaigh sna h-eileanan, chuir Comhairle nan Eilean Siar fàilte air a’ chothrom a thaobh co-obrachadh air a’ phròiseact seo.  

Le bhith a’ gabhail grunn phasgain obrach co-cheangailte os làimh, a’ còmhdach raon de  roghainnean teicnigeach gus an t-slighe riatanach a-mach à bochdainn connaidh adhartachadh, tha an cothrom air eaconamaidh cumhachd ionadail a leasachadh, a’ gabhail ri ar mòran tùsan cumhachd ath-nuadhachail, a-nis glè fhìor. Cuiridh leudachdan san àm ri teachd a’ gabhail a-steach gaoth far-tìre, stòradh haidreadsan is bataraidh, gus dèiligeadh ri cugallachd nan stuthan ath-nuadhachail a th’ againn, taic ri lèirsinn na Comhairle airson companaidh solair cumhachd air a ruith gu h-ionadail.

Tha pròiseact RIPEET air ceadachadh dhuinn ath-sgrùdadh a dhèanamh air seann ro- innleachdan agus reachdasan ùra a tharraing a-steach don cho-theacsa eileanach againn. Tha còmhraidhean làithreach le ar gnìomharaichean sgaoilidh air an lìonra dealain, còmhla ri àireamh de roghainnean solair co-cheangailte, gu gnìomhach gan cur air adhart. Le taic bho dhreuchd air a maoineachadh o chionn ghoirid le Innovate UK a bha a dh’aon ghnothaich airson bochdainn connaidh a lùghdachadh tro dhi-chàrbonachadh, tha a’ Chomhairle a’ dèanamh adhartas le fuasgladh cumhachd gu buannachd luchd-còmhnaidh nan eilean uile a tha gu làithreach a’ cleachdadh dealan is gas dhachaighean ceangailte ris a’ chliath.”

Tha na h-aithisgean bho RIPEET gan cumail air làrach-lìn CES.  

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