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Climate / Brae district heating design work and electric bus trial part of new energy and transport hub pilot

Brae. Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

FUNDING has been secured to pilot a ‘rural energy and transport hub’ in Brae which would include the concept design of district heating in the village and an electric bus trial.

The project has pinpointed the Brae Youth Centre as a possible hub, with potential elements such as upgrading its energy efficiency, creating co-working and meeting/waiting spaces as well as electric vehicle charging and renewable energy generation.

It is part of a project between Shetland and Orkney that has secured £4.9 million of funding from government body Innovate UK. A hub will also be introduced in Orkney.

A key aim is to show how the “non-technical barriers to implementing carbon-cutting measures can be overcome”.

The project is due to run from February 2024 to October 2025.

It comes after the SIC and its counterparts in Orkney were both given funding to conduct feasibility studies examining how to overcome some of the key non-technical barriers that are holding back efforts to reach net zero targets.

The announcement for the funding said the hub in Brae could include elements such as shared working spaces, comfortable meeting areas, rapid charging facilities, renewable energy generation, a car club and an e-bikes location.

There is also a focus on engaging consumers, identifying regulatory and grid constraints and driving behaviour change.

The project aims to use the pilot hub to develop a model for establishing a wider network of rural energy hubs across Orkney and Shetland, and to demonstrate how decarbonisation can be developed, embedded and accelerated locally.

Partners include project lead Aquatera, Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council (SIC), the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) and Community Energy Scotland.

The SIC’s climate strategy team leader Claire Ferguson said the project could include a 12-month trial of an electric bus across Shetland.

She added that the concept design of district heating in Brae would “make use of curtailed energy and waste heat for community benefit”.

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Brae has often been regarded as a possible location if district heating was expanded outside of Lerwick.

A possible new school in the village, which has the offer of Scottish Government funding, is thought to bolster the case.

Chair of the SIC’s environment and transport committee Moraig Lyall added: “We are really pleased to receive the news of this funding award for the Rural Energy Hubs Project, that will address ‘non-technical’ barriers to decarbonisation, with a clear focus on community benefit.

“The project includes planning the energy efficiency, connectivity and multipurpose use of the hub building and its relationship to transport in the North Mainland.

“This funding is an opportunity to pilot and demonstrate new sustainable ways of living and working in a rural setting based on strategic planning.

“Local projects like this will have many benefits for the Shetland community as well as helping to reach Shetland’s net zero targets.

“I’d like to offer my congratulations to the team who have put together our funding bid and I look forward to seeing how this will develop and enhance facilities in Brae.”

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