The Isles of Scilly off the west coast of Cornwall are to become part of the Smart Energy Islands (SEI) project carried out by Hitachi Europe, providing a model for low-carbon smart energy systems around the world. The £10.8m project, £8.6m of which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, will enable electric vehicles and smart home batteries used on the Islands to help balance supply and demand within its contained energy system.
The rest of the investment is put up by Hitachi, and the project is conducted in collaboration with the Smart Islands Partnership and UK smart energy pioneers Moixa and PassivSystems. The initiative aims to develop systems that can be replicated anywhere in the world, helping communities to become energy self-sustainable on low-carbon energy.
A spokesperson for Hitachi said:
“Through the deployment of smart solutions across the islands’ infrastructure, we will demonstrate the potential of the UK to take a lead role in this area “to inform the UK’s industrial strategy as well as to ensure a sustainable future for many regions of the UK and beyond. The aim is to unlock and balance renewable energy generation, making 100 homes more energy efficient and supporting 200 businesses in the Isles of Scilly and in Cornwall, whilst reducing fuel poverty through the use of innovative technologies”.
The Isles of Scilly face unique challenges due to their remote location 28 miles from the UK mainland. The 2,200 islanders have no gas supply and rely heavily on imported fossil fuels and electricity to meet their needs, resulting in one of the UK’s highest household electricity consumption levels. However, the islands have a low wage economy, dominated by tourism and agriculture. A combination of high fuel costs and large numbers of homes with inefficient heating systems means they have one of the highest rates of fuel poverty in the country, affecting 22 per cent of households.
The SEI project will use home batteries, electric vehicles and smart heating technologies to balance supply and demand of electricity. By easing pressures on the islands’ energy system, it will allow them to scale up renewable generation and increase their energy independence.
Steve Sims, the Council of the Isles of Scilly’s Lead Member for Smart Islands, said:
“It’s a great project with huge potential for the islands. Hitachi, a global leader, is a very enthusiastic partner and has brought with it other partners with applicable expertise. The cost to the Council is in the region of £200,000, which is money the authority would have had to spend anyway in order to make our social housing Energy Performance Certified by 2020. Central government seems very enthused and is taking an active interest. The project will help to address our fuel poverty, currently the worst in the UK, with up to 40% cheaper electricity by 2025. And, as importantly, reduce our waste costs to a manageable level, make our sewage system compliant and efficient which in turn will remove many of our housing bottlenecks which are holding the islands back in so many ways”.