Orkney energy project aims to create the first ‘large scale smart local energy system’ in the world

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AN AMBITIOUS flexibility project aims to place the island of Orkney at the forefront of a green energy revolution.

The ReFLEX (Responsive Flexibility) Orkney project, currently being trialled on the archipelago off Scotland’s north coast.

Launched in April 2019, the ambitious £28.5 million programme funded by UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, is aiming to create the world’s first large scale ‘smart local energy system’ by combining technology with renewable energy to provide intelligent heat, power and transport services to islanders.

Professor David Flynn of Heriot-Watt University’s School of Engineering & Physical Sciences commented: ”ReFLEX is a community project working with people in the community from the outset.

“Globally, we will see a trend in decentralised energy systems, so what happens in Orkney can be replicated throughout the world.

“As the world transitions away from carbon-heavy energy sources and increasingly towards renewable sources, I believe there will be an opportunity of moving towards a more democratic energy market that places some of the ‘power’ back into the hands of the community.

“So not only are we trying to reduce costs to consumers within a resilient low carbon system, but also provide them with opportunities to engage and generate revenue.”

ReFLEX Orkney is modelling scenarios that study what happens when individuals or communities work together in the energy market.

Professor Flynn added: “In the future, I believe it will become common-place for communities to come together and agree to put a small share of their local renewable energy into a collective pot that can then be sold back to the energy network for the benefit of everyone connected to the network.

“That is a game-changer in how we currently manage and use energy, as well as how we use energy services to support wealth distribution in communities.

“We as a globe are on a trajectory where we need smart energy services such as what we are exploring in Orkney.

“It is the only way to minimise cost, decarbonise and have a sustainable future before incurring increasingly negative impacts of climate change.

“We have a climate emergency and we cannot think in incremental steps, we have to be radical in our thinking and be willing to transform how we engage with our energy services.”

ReFLEX Orkney is led by the European Marine Energy Centre and brings together a host of partners including Heriot-Watt, Aquatera, Solo Energy, Community Energy Scotland, Orkney Islands Council, and Doosan.

Heriot-Watt researchers are working across the project offering expertise in technology, business, regulatory barriers and service delivery.

ReFLEX Orkney passed its first gate review in February and has now moved into the demonstration phase.