ReFLEX Orkney

ReFLEX Orkney set out to pioneer an integrated, affordable, low-carbon energy system using a disruptive, progressive and all-encompassing approach.

Lead Organisation

European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC)




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About the project

The project aimed to create a smart local energy system (SLES) in Orkney, Scotland, interlinking local electricity, transport and heat networks into one controllable, overarching system. It aimed to digitally connect distributed and variable renewable generation to flexible storage and demand.

This ‘whole systems’ approach requires disruptive, progressive and all-encompassing systems spanning technical innovations, new financial models, changes to consumer behaviour, and the way energy companies and regulators operate.

ReFLEX has uncovered critical interdependencies between different aspects of the system. Progress has been slower than anticipated due to inertia within the current energy system and the need to accommodate radical and disruptive change in a real-life setting.

Credit: Colin Keldie (courtesy of Solo Energy)
Credit: Colin Keldie (courtesy of Solo Energy)

What did the project achieve?

  • Exceptional engagement and participation: ReFLEX Orkney membership had grown to circa 1,000 by the end of 2022 (5% of the total Orkney population).
  • Significant uptake of decarbonised transport, including an increase of over 210 electric vehicles (EVs) on Orkney, almost 150 domestic EV charge points, and enrolment of over 200 people in the local car club.
  • Demonstrated aggregated demand and control of EV chargers to help avoid curtailing wind power, by controlling nearly 40 smart chargers in response to grid and wind conditions.
  • Improved understanding of carbon emissions and energy use across Orkney, through completion of over 300 carbon footprints and deployment of energy monitors in 115 properties.
  • Integrated Energy System control platform developed and deployed.

Key lessons learnt

  1. Energy and commercial regulations are not currently designed to support delivery of integrated, innovative smart local energy system projects. Future projects need great regulatory flexibility and freedom to deliver.
  2. The importance of taking a whole system approach to smart local energy systems cannot be over-emphasised and needs to take account of technical, social, behavioural, financial, data, and local considerations.
  3. Pursuing a disruptive, transformational innovation and demonstration project through a series of unprecedented social, economic and political challenges is extremely hard.

In the video below, recorded as the projects drew to a close in early 2023, the speakers recount the challenges and successes they experienced.

Hear from :

  • Malcolm McCulloch, the Local Energy Oxfordshire project (LEO)
  • Tim Rose, the Energy Superhub Oxford project (ESO)
  • Gareth Davies, the ReFLEX Orkney project.

Next steps

  • ReFLEX Orkney Ltd has been set up as a special purpose vehicle to continue development and delivery of the ReFLEX model and support members in contributing to smart local energy system developments.
  • The ReFLEX learning achieved has created an excellent advanced-stage launch pad for other complementary and onward building research, innovation, demonstration and projects.

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