Update on COBEN journey

admin Beyond Green News

We are currently leading facilitation and engagement in Brae, Shetland, and Drumnadrochit on the shores of Loch Ness, for the COBEN Local Energy Plan project, a pilot to develop an approach that other remote communities can adopt. The COBEN project lead by Local Energy Scotland focuses on how community energy plans can generate benefit for local communities. Community energy is decentralised renewable energy that is at least half owned/developed by the community. The value created from energy projects stays within the community and is reinvested to create more community energy opportunities. 

Our dedicated team of facilitators includes change, leadership, and energy specialists who adopt a “one team” approach with Amec Foster Wheeler (technical contractor) and communities in Brae and Drumnadrochit. This approach ensures all parties are involved to create plans for how the two communities could generate, consume, and store energy and ease the transition into a low carbon future.

We have worked with the steering groups in Brae and Drumnadrochit to design a series of three workshops which aim to identify each community’s specific energy needs and inspire local ambassadors to drive community engagement during this pilot process. Feedback from the ambassadors and the steering group will be integrated into the final Local Energy Plan. The overall objective being to ensure ownership of the project outcomes. Our approach is outlined in the diagram below

We kicked off workshop one with asking local ambassadors to consider the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). This helped stimulate discussions around their own community’s needs and challenges. Goals such as 3 – Good health and well-being and 8 – Decent work and economic growth were highlighted as most relevant by the local ambassadors. We then asked how ultimately connecting energy could support needs or alleviate challenges to local and global issues. Using the goals as a connection to local energy, a number of criteria to assess local energy projects were raised. Those criteria were then tested through an online and paper survey, promoted by the ambassadors to the community to gather wider opinions. 

During workshop two, local ambassadors reviewed a number of energy opportunities which support their community’s needs. The opportunities presented to the ambassadors were specifically targeted from ideas identified in the first workshop. Impacts of the survey results on the criteria were reflected on, as well as opportunities to obtain further responses. The ambassadors provided ideas for a second survey to ask local people their views on specific energy opportunities. 

Workshop three will draw on survey results, and use interactive exercises to help them prioritise energy opportunities in line with community interests and needs. The ambassadors and steering group will have the draft Local Energy Plan for workshop three, and then any modifications raised will be shared with Amec Foster Wheeler to inform the final Local Energy Plan. 

Sharing the workshop’s outcomes with the technical contractor ensures the Local Energy Plans reflect the community’s needs and challenges. We are thrilled to be a part of the journey to a low carbon future for Brae and Drumnadrochit, and look forward to workshop three!