Communities Called to ACTION for Green Transport Project

ACTION (Alternative Community Transport in Our Neighbourhood) Highland Highway is a proposal to install a network of rapid electric charging points in the Highlands, powered by local energy generation and incorporating energy storage.

The project is in the first phase of a feasibility study which will involve:

  • Community consultation on the use and ownership of electric vehicles;
  • Identification of potential sites linked with energy use and journey aspirations;
  • Modelling and identifying the different technologies involved; and
  • Building a business model that will develop community, local authority and agency support.

ACTION Highland Highway is a community project, led by The Highland Council which will primarily be developed by three community groups: Transition Black Isle; Caithness Rural Transport - an offshoot of Caithness Voluntary Group (CVG) - and Community Energy Scotland.

The project has received phase 1 funding through the Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge Fund which assists the development of local energy projects.

A key aim of the project is to help Highland communities develop a scalable model for green transport in rural areas. The initial feasibility stage will run from now until Christmas 2015, and if the feasibility study shows merit the groups hope to apply for phase 2 funding for the capital stage of the project.

The first stage of the consultation will begin in Caithness with the rest of the Highlands following.

Martin Sherring, of Transition Black Isle, said: “Long distances in the Highlands mean that ‘range anxiety’ is a serious barrier to electric vehicle use. We hope this project will reduce the barrier by enabling electric vehicle owners to recharge at their destination, ready for the trip home. And we aim to tick some other important boxes too, ensuring the electricity used is from renewable sources, re-using batteries which would otherwise become a waste disposal problem, and generating income for local communities.”

Louise Smith, Director of Thurso consultancy Caithness Renewables Ltd, will be project managing several aspects of the project including the consultation, and is seeking the views of Caithness and Sutherland transport users about the current use of electric vehicles and potential future developments.

Louise said: “The opinions of Caithness and Sutherland residents will fundamentally shape the direction of this project, and we are looking forward to an interesting consultation period.”

Caithness Rural Transport Co-ordinator Coreen Campbell, said: “You may currently own an electric car, so we want to develop the project around where you live and work, what trips you currently use the car for and what potential trips you could make if rapid chargers were available.”

She added: “The detail behind this is a series of survey questions including which Highland locations you think might be useful for rapid charging stations. We also want to hear from any organisations - businesses, the public sector or community groups - that would be willing to host a charging point. You should ideally be located near the main road network and have an area where vehicles can pull in and park.

“At Caithness Rural Transport we plan to start running vehicles that will use these chargers thus making our Dial-A-Ride transport not only a vital community service but also a shining example of low carbon transport.”

A key ambition of the project is to help strengthen electricity networks in rural areas, through smart control of charging times, and the use of energy storage.

Felix Wight, Head of Development at Community Energy Scotland explained: “Combining renewable energy with electric vehicles could be a double win for highland communities, by allowing new energy generation projects to connect to areas of the grid that have limited capacity, and providing a source of sustainable electric fuel from local resources.”

Councillor Audrey Sinclair, Chair of the Council’s Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee, said: “ACTION Highland Highway is an exciting project for the Highlands, with the potential to significantly increase electric car usage across the region through the development of a charging network built around renewable energy. This can only be a positive step forward in reducing the carbon footprint of the region.”

The network of rapid chargers planned by the two groups will add to those already installed by Transport Scotland and the Highland Council through the Plugged-In Places programme.

Survey details can be found at http://www.caithnessrenewables.co.uk/welcometoourservices.html
and the closing date is 28 October, 2015.

Further information on ACTION Highland Highway is available here.

26 Aug 2015
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