Taking Control of Orkney’s Energy

Could an Orkney Energy Agency be the answer to providing a sustainable and affordable renewable energy supply for the People of Orkney?

This was the main point to be taken forward from the Orkney Renewable Energy Forum’s  (OREF) AGM to Orkney Islands Council’s Energy Strategy Action Plan.

The Way Forward for Renewables

wind-turbineA presentation previously shown to councillors and compiled by Gareth Davies, chair of OREF and Neil Kermode painted a picture of an extremely successful renewable energy industry in Orkney, a county which also has the highest rate of fuel poverty in Scotland.

Orkney has always produced its own energy from the wind and water mills of 300 years ago, through the Flotta Terminal producing 10% of the UK’s oil since 1974 up to today where wave, tidal,onshore/offshore wind and solar are producing 120% of our electricity needs. Orkney has not imported electrical energy since April 2015.

The stats for Orkney are amazing:

  • 740 micro turbines bringing in £4million per annum
  • 1/9 of the UK’s domestic wind turbines
  • 136 electric vehicles

But electricity is only 10% of Orkney’s energy use. There are 10,800 cars in Orkney. We have come to rely on them and our ferries to get about. Transport will, therefore, be a key component for a sustainable energy Action Plan for Orkney .

What benefits does Orkney get from the renewables industry?

  • Year 2000 = 26 jobs in renewables
  • Year 2016 = 220 jobs in renewables
  • Over a period of 20 years more than £600million has been spent in Orkney in connection with renewables: £250million in onshore, £350million marine.
  • 500 households have wind turbines with some having more than one.
  • 400 households have solar panels and/or ground source heat pumps
  • 5 large scale community owned turbines serve 800 homes.

It is claimed that 20% of households in Orkney have a direct link to the success of the renewable industry. OREF argue that this is demonstrated in the considerable rise in the average household income of Orcadians which they see is as a result of the islands’ involvement in the renewables industry.

1997    UK: £9,743         Scotland: £9,212       Orkney: £7,424

2011    UK:£16,034        Scotland:£15,654      Orkney:£17,973

Support for renewables with Orcadians also appears to be very high with a survey conducted in January 2017 showing a 89% positive response. The same survey also resulted in a 70%  support of wind turbines which may come as  surprise to  those who are very vociferous in their condemnation of this form of energy production.

The problem in Orkney has always been the limited subsea cable connection to the National Grid which has resulted in many renewable schemes being unable to progress. Orcadians are paying amongst the highest electricity charges in the UK. This is a ridiculous situation when we are also producing 120% of our own electricity. Promises of an additional subsea cable have been made for decades. We are still waiting. For some in the industry the only way they see for taking things forward for Orkney is to do our own thing. And the solution for that would be to set up an Orkney Energy Agency. This could work in two ways:

  1. by owning the local grid, or
  2. by being a licensed operator who sells electricity to Orcadians

The way forward for Orkney could be to reinvent ourselves as we have done many times before throughout the history of these islands by taking control of our energy production and storage.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame


OREF AGM (N Morrison)


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