Orkney is blessed with an abundance of renewable energy sources. The utilisation of Wind, Solar, Wave and Tidal mean that Orkney can produce many times what it needs to consume.

Conversely Orkney has some more harsh attributes that mean the amount of energy required to keep homes warm can be higher than other parts of the UK. These include:

  • A long heating season
  • Exposed conditions leading to wind-chill
  • Historically poor housing stock

The unfortunate result of the above is that levels of Fuel Poverty (defined as spending more than 10% of income on heating) are at levels approaching 60% on the islands.

Energy efficiency and conservation are, therefore, very important on the islands. OREF is involved in a number of initiatives to try to improve this. These include:

  • Working with local builders to campaign for improvements in building standards to promote more energy efficient homes (whether New Build or renovated)
  • Lobbying for the creation of cheaper electricity tariffs and a local energy company where local electricity producers can sell their energy to local consumers.
  • Providing FREE energy efficiency assessments to OREF members and those people in Fuel Poverty. This new initiative provides a written report on the current status of the property and how best to improve its efficiency. This may be through better insulation, more efficient heating or the deployment of a Renewables solution (Wind, Solar, Energy Storage, Ground source, Air source, Biomass etc)
  • Working with THAW Orkney (a Fuel Poverty charity) A Feed in Tariff recycling scheme has been created. This allows FiT recipients to set up a direct debit and donate a proportion of the income from their turbines to this charity. It is unfortunate that the Feed in Tariff system is funded by a levy on all electricity bills. This means that even those in fuel poverty are contributing to the scheme, so as a means of seeking to redress this, OREF encourages FIT recipients to donate a small proportion of income to THAW Orkney. To participate go to the THAW Orkney site.

There are 3 other community projects running on the islands helping to conserve energy that would otherwise be lost through grid constraint. These are explained in detail here and summarised below:

Project smart

Project Smart – The provision of remotely managed hot water and heating in homes. These are switched on in windy conditions to prevent the Rousay community turbine from being constrained (ie switched off) due to constraints on the local area grid network.

Project smile (just starting) – The provision of smart charging for EVs at home and smart heating systems that are remotely managed and again are switched on to prevent constraint to local community turbines.

Hydrogen picture

Project Big Hit – The production of hydrogen by electrolysis using electricity to prevent grid constraint. This hydrogen is then used to power ferry’s when in port and for fuel cell electric vans.

In the absence of a new electricity link to mainland Scotland, Orkney needs to do more to balance electricity supply and demand and allow more generating capacity onto the local grid without higher levels of constraint (= electricity loss). Projects such as shown below should form part of the future:

  • V2G (vehicle to grid) – to allow EV batteries to be charged in times of high supply and that charge to be returned to the grid in times of high demand.
  • Dedicated battery storage (home and public) – again to charge and discharge to balance the grid.
  • Growth of EVs to soak up more electricity locally together with time based home charging to use electricity in times of low demand.
  • Promotion of electrical heating in homes supported by time based tariffs to use electricity in times of low demand.