Jon Southerington: How we can go zero carbon in Orkney

Ben Wray

Jon Southerington, Orkney resident in Deerness, makes a series of proposals for how the north-east island could contribute to the Scottish Government’s new zero carbon emissions target by 2045

VIEWING the Orkney Islands Council plans for Wind Turbine projects in Hoy, Faray and Quanterness has got me thinking about how we in Orkney can do our bit to meet the zero emissions targets (or be a negative emissions community due to our renewable energy production potential), whilst actually making Orkney cleaner and a less expensive place to live.

Even though I am sceptical of some politicians new found enthusiasm and their tendency to coat themselves in “Greenwash” when it is opportune, I am trying to park my cynicism and view their sudden conversion to reducing carbon emissions as an opportunity.

Given the renewable energy production potential of Orkney and our current heavy reliance on fossil fuels to lubricate our lives here, Orkney could be a lead community in moving a zero carbon society. I think we need to start with a community consultation including a root and branch assessment of where we currently stand and where we need to be in five, ten, 15, 20, 25 and 30 year periods. This would mean ending piecemeal development in favour of long term plans that have the best outcomes in the social, environmental and economic spheres as the key measures. The baseline for any changes must be that they are equitable, as currently the poorest in society pay the most for services, tend to have the least thermally efficient homes, and the poorest access to transport options.

The following are a few ideas for the future, and I am sure there are lots of folk with ideas of their own to put forward.

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All new developments to have a carbon footprint measurement, which must be offset by quantifiable actions elsewhere, for example  the CFP of a new house could be offset by planting an area of mixed native woodland, with the higher the CFP of a development, the larger and more expensive the offset investment required. This could also be used to push the move from the purchase of new internal combustion powered technology to battery or hydrogen/battery alternatives, with an upfront carbon tax on new ICE powered tech, which would be invested in mitigation projects.

Set up a publicly owned local energy company to develop new renewable energy projects (I would prefer to see new large scale projects to be in offshore wind and marine renewables sectors), and possibly take over the local grid. The power produced to be used in public buildings and the transport sector, low cost energy supplies to tackle fuel poverty, with the surplus energy sold to the national grid or used to produce hydrogen. A proportion of the income from energy sales to be used to enhance the thermal efficiency of homes in Orkney, through insulation and heating system upgrades.

OIC to tender Original Equipment Manufacturers to progressively replace all current ICE powered transport and other equipment with non-ICE alternatives. Push for this requirement to be placed on other bodies in Orkney such as the NHS, Royal Mail, OHAL, SEPA, Stagecoach, SNH, Logan Air, HIAL, Scottish Water, SSE, BT, The RSPB, Pentland Ferries, North Link, supermarkets and haulage firms.

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Work with schools, colleges and universities to increase the availability of courses that provide means to combat climate change. These might include new building techniques, non-ICE tech training and low carbon agronomy. The courses would be available to young people and working age adults looking to or needing to re-train.

Increase the  local production of fruit and vegetables year round, utilising indoor production in greenhouses and buildings and spaces which use renewable energy to provide light and heat.

Phase out the import and use of fossil fuel derived fertilisers and lime applications, with replacement by naturally derived alternatives. Seaweed, Crab and lobster carapaces and mollusc shells are  a possible feedstock source given our maritime setting.  

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Introduce a basic principle of Orkney being a circular economy, producing as much as possible locally, with “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” at the front of everyone’s thinking. 

The above are I believe a mix of measures specific to Orkney and ones which could be enacted by any community striving to reduce its CFP. I look forward to reading other peoples ideas on how Orkney, Scotland and the UK can get to grips with reducing our collective CFP.

Picture courtesy of <p&p>photo

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