Island Contribution: The people of the Orkney, Shetland and Outer Hebrides Islands have taken on the mission of transition to low carbon energy by 2030. The work of the Zero Carbon Centre aims to address the competing issues of arresting greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring affordability, providing energy security now and in the long-term, and setting up systems that are economically sustainable and equitable and are embraced by the public. What we learn through our ground-breaking work will provide crucial understanding of how to navigate the challenging transition period of decarbonising heat and transport and managing the de-growth of the oil and gas sector. The Centre’s work is on the ground in the islands, but will contribute to the Scotland and UK advancement of energy governance and innovation. The work of the centre will use a framework that embraces the complexity of ensuring transparency, engineering-informed planning, monitoring and implementation, and continuity of community wellbeing and affordability. 


The Scottish Islands will be the headlight communities for energy transition


The Challenge: There are paradoxical “wicked problems” throughout all of the energy supply, market, policy and end-use systems. A problem is wicked because it is successful in several respects, but it is also causing harm and it is unsustainable. For example, diesel powered cruise ships provide luxurious holidays for tourists and transport visitors to the islands where they may purchase local goods and services. However fossil fuel is unsustainable and the pollution and scale of tourist surges harm local ecosystems. Decision makers need honest, transparent and rigorous analysis about how best to transition current systems to achieve local objectives, global targets for 80% fossil fuel reduction, and long term community prosperity.


Difficult Decisions and Choices: Energy transition will rely on a range of decisions made by actors other than energy suppliers. Government at all levels, industry, organizations, communities and individual households all need accurate and relevant information. All of the options require trade-offs. The Zero Carbon Centre will use ground-up participatory exploration and engineering-informed wayfinding around different possible scenarios. This will enable understanding, discussion and acceptance of sober, rational and fruitful decisions.


Guiding Principles: It is imperative that government, utilities, operators and households rely on robust scientific and engineering evidence when making decisions, developing plans and implementing policy. There is a need for significant research, development and training in energy transition at all educational levels. The Zero Carbon Centre RD&T activities will be carried out in new interdisciplinary ways using methods like “Action Research” and “Problem Based Learning”. There are potentially serious consequences from delaying difficult decisions until changes in existing systems are de-risked and the behaviours of actors are certain. Action Research means deploying known technologies and methods within certain settings, using rigorous scientific research observation and modelling to rapidly generate learning. Results will be reported about both the intended and unintended consequences to the research community and the island communities through local media, virtual workshops and on-line courses. There are no technology or regulatory solutions that will solve the problems of decarbonization, thus we propose to “Learn by Doing” in the range of settings and energy end uses.


Consortium of Partners in the UK and beyond



Approach: The proposed ground-up approach will ensure that people throughout society around the country can grasp the challenges and see the opportunities of different types of investments, technologies, innovations, behaviours, and policies. We will also develop new understandable and transparent metrics for wellbeing, prosperity, resilience, security, and sustainability that communicate the real value of the transition projects to people today and for generations to come. The action research and the workflow will be guided by the Interdisciplinary Transition Innovation, Management and Engineering (InTIME) process as described in the book Transition Engineering, Building a Sustainable Future


The Interdisciplinary Transition Innovation, Management and Engineering (InTIME) Methodology

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