Leading the Way to a Low Carbon Future

“Why are we aiming for low carbon when we should be going for no carbon?”

“There is no point in producing energy if people cannot afford to heat their homes.”

Leading the Way to a Low Carbon Future was the topic under scrutiny at an event on Thursday, 6th of December at the Pickaquoy Centre Kirkwall.

Islands Deal workshop 1

A low carbon economy is one part of what is hoped will be an Islands Deal. The three island authorities: Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles, are putting together an Islands Deal – think City Deals but in the islands.

You can read more about that here:  Orkney Islands Council Makes Post Brexit Plans

Hosted by Orkney company Aquaterra for Orkney Renewable Energy Forum (OREF) the day consisted of presentations, Q & A and workshops. Those who were unable to attend could take part via a Webinar.

David Amos, the Director of the Islands Deal project explained that each island authority had its strengths and Orkney was best placed to take the lead on the low carbon theme.

The Islands Deal is projected to bring in 3,500 jobs divided roughly equally across all 3 island authorities over a 10 year period. The idea is that as wide a range of interested parties will feed into the process to test out the themes being proposed.

The Islands Deal has 3 main themes and covers 3 islands authorities: Tourism, Decarbonisation and Data/Digital. The three themes came out of previous workshops which have been held and which identified areas of particular interest to the islands. Although the 3 islands authorities have a diversity of resources this is also a strength bringing them together to argue the case for one deal which will straddle them all.


Islands Deal workshop Gareth

Gareth Davies of Aquaterra explained that this is ‘not doing business as usual’. The Islands Deal will be transformational with innovation led by universities.

“We have to move on from adopting renewable energy,” he said, ” to a low carbon economy.”

But “this is not a done deal.” “We have to go out and win this and it will be stronger with everyone’s ideas.”

Suggested Themes for Exploring the Low Carbon Theme

There are 8 Key themes:

  1. Establishing an Energy Agency
  2. Regulatory Derogation: a unique opportunity for the islands to take advantage of
  3. A Hydrogen Hub: the challenge to move from experimenting to producing jobs
  4. Local Energy Companies: communities are already taking control of their energy systems
  5. Low Carbon Transport: adopt new ways of behaving, in Orkney 25% of energy demand is by ferries. Norway is building low/no carbon ships.
  6. Grid Upgrades: all 3 island authorities have battled for grid upgrades
  7. Living Laboratory: to be a working test bed for low carbon
  8. Storage and Conversion Demonstration Zone – this is key to the integration of renewable energy into existing sources

Also touched upon was:

  • the need for branding using the UK brand but with the use of the islands locations as central.
  • pre-permitting of energy sites
  • new markets – encouraging new ways of using energy
  • fuel poverty: affordable warmth – how can we understand what this is and make the Islands Deal work for it?

In response to criticism that fuel poverty was not listed as a key theme this was changed. As a member of the audience from Shetland said:

“There is no point in producing energy if people cannot afford to heat their homes.”

How will an Islands Deal be Funded?

As with City Deals funding comes from the UK Government, the Scottish Government and various other match funding sources to produce a package of financial support.

A rough estimate for the initial funding would be:

Shetland – £10 – £20m

Orkney – £15 – £30m

Western Isles – £10 – £20m.

These figures are estimates and based on population. If successful this funding would be additional to Scotland’s block grant from the UK Government.

Islands Deal 5 N Morrison


Climate Change

From the audience it was questioned why the aim was for low carbon  – why not no carbon?

The existing targets for Orkney are to be 50% decarbonised by 2030. Gareth Davies stated that for an Islands Deal to be ambitious that it had to go beyond the Scottish Government targets.

This week the Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, attended COP24 the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland. It was at this conference where Sir David Attenburgh described climate change as the greatest threat to humanity in thousands of years.

The Scottish Government has pledged £1million towards  the Solar Impulse Foundation’s efforts to identify 1,000 solutions that will protect the environment.

The funding is in conjuction with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to strengthen cooperation in the fight against climate change.

Bertrand Piccard, CEO of the Solar Impulse Foundation, said:

“The fight against climate change will take boldness and ambition. Scotland is currently paving the way in showing what these notions mean in concrete action. Their legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should be an example.

“Moreover, this collaboration between Scotland and the Solar Impulse Foundation shows how governments and society at large can get together to bring concrete solutions. I am proud to partner with Scotland, and to send a message of hope for our planet.”

Nicola Sturgeon said:

““Scotland has a proud history of innovation and we are well placed to use those skills to uncover alternatives to products and practices that currently harm our environment. As such, I’m very pleased that we are going to be able to work with the Solar Impulse Foundation in their future efforts.”

environmentA Climate Change Bill is now progressing through the Scottish Parliament. It is currently at stage 1.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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