by Declan Murray
Of course we are all familiar with North Sea oil (and gas); the boom it brought to Aberdeen’s economy and the centrality it plays in some versions of Scottish nationalism. Of course what we also know is that fossil-based fuels are increasingly untenable in the context of the climate and ecological emergencies that we and the planet are currently facing. Fortunately, Scotland has established itself as something of a leader in more sustainable energy industries too; particularly in wave and tidal power. What are perhaps less well known are the various enterprises and organisations based out of Edinburgh who work on energy matters abroad, in other countries. This blog post powers its way through a few examples.
In Scotland iPower offer combined heat and power (CHP) solutions for homes while Boxergy are working on a unique storage solution for heating homes – both are capitalising on the UK government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The RHI provides financial support to homeowners for first 7 years to cover the initial cost (the difference between installation and continuing to heat a house with non-renewable source) of new heating sources like a biomass boiler or pellet stove. Elsewhere we have companies such as Nova Innovation and Logan Energy which are at the forefront of their fields in tidal and hydrogen fuel cell technologies respectively. Although Scotland isn’t famed for its sunshine, indeed Edinburgh appears low on league tables of installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity in UK cities, Edinburgh does have its own community solar cooperative where any profits on the energy produced by the cooperative’s solar panels is shared among members and a community benefit fund.
There are many more projects coming out of Edinburgh that make use of the sun’s energy elsewhere in the world. These include Elpis Solar working in Greece, Scene working in India, Solar What?! in Zambia, CreativENERGIE in Tanzania and Connected Energy in Kigali, Rwanda. The other thing that each of these organisations have in common is a connection to the University of Edinburgh; either through funding collaborations or being staffed, if not set up, by University of Edinburgh alumni.
The University of Edinburgh, along with Edinburgh Napier and Heriot Watt universities is a member of the Energy Technology Partnership (ETP):
“an autonomous alliance of 13 independent Scottish HEIs, each with areas of outstanding research capability in the energy sector.”
The aim of the ETP is to develop skills through PhD programmes, establish Scotland as leading centre for energy research and create economic impact for Scottish companies and communities. A cursory glance at the initiatives listed above would suggest that something is certainly going right for energy ventures in the country!
Of course it is not all green grass and white windmills. As recently as 2017 there was controversy over the number of Scottish councils, including Edinburgh’s, which held pension investments in fracking companies: £46m for Edinburgh City Council. But with 16,000 jobs in renewables in Scotland at the end of 2018 it is clear there is a variety of energy activities taking place in the city and the country at large which are oriented towards a more sustainable future than one might historically have associated with energy production in Scotland.
Meanwhile, energy research continues apace among the Futureproof Collective. The new issue of EAS-THEMES – Edinburgh anthropology’s virtual journal – is now published online.
Edited by Jamie Cross, the theme of this issue is CLIMATE AND ENERGY POLITICS.
Articles by Aaron Kappeler, Sophie Haines, Jamie Cross, Agustin Diz, Juli Huang, Heid Jerstad, Stephanie Sodero and Kath Weston.
Are you involved in an energy-related initiative in Edinburgh that we have missed here? If so please get in touch and let us know what you are up to!