Comhairle nan Eilean Siar recently hosted visitors from eight EU partner countries: Belgium, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Cyprus, Spain, Croatia and Latvia, as part of its involvement in the EU-funded BEAST (Beyond Energy Action Strategies) project.
The visit provided a useful opportunity for knowledge sharing and information exchange. Activities included a visit to West Harris Trust and to Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust), where partners were enthused with what has been achieved through the community share offer to support the construction of its 3 wind turbines. With approaches to internal and external wall insulation being of particular interest to some of the visitors, there was also an extremely positive response to visits to homes being treated by Tighean Innse Gall through the Scottish Government’s ‘Home Energy Efficiency Programme’.
On the second day of the visit, a workshop was held in order to share learning and experience between BEAST partners and local stakeholders in the Outer Hebrides in relation to energy projects they were involved in across the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable transport. The overall objectives were to: share good practice, identify factors which can make an energy project a success, and, look at barriers being experienced by projects across the EU and where these had been successfully overcome.
EU partners presented some of the key projects being taken forward in their regions, including electric vehicle uptake, microgrids, energy efficient street lighting and energy performance contracting. They also heard from Tighean Innse Gall on its energy advice and insulation measures, Hebridean Housing Partnership on work done to monitor and improve energy efficiency in island homes, and an innovative project being taken forward by the Comhairle’s Technical Services Department on utilisation of waste fish products in the Anaerobic Digester at Creed Park.
Following the presentation there was an opportunity for questions and discussions on some of the areas raised through the presentations. Participants went into more detail on sharing factors that can support project success, and to also share experiences on barriers experienced and the approach to overcoming these. Some of the themes from the discussion are summarised below.
Challenges/Barriers to Success:
- Lack of understanding of RES and EE technologies
- Misconceptions of benefits versus potential costs/savings
- Administration and bureaucracy
- Changes in political/government priorities
Ways to overcome barriers/ensure project success:
- Sharing examples of good practice with other regions
- Feasibility and technical studies to prove potential impact
- Demonstration & Information campaigns to challenge misconceptions
- Political support
- Knowledgeable, local staff who gain trust in the community