Shetland has played a prominent role in UK energy since the 1970s – with significant infrastructure built at the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal, the Shetland Gas Plant in the North Mainland, and at Lerwick Harbour in the central part of the isles. But as the world shifts away from fossil fuels in the face of climate change, Shetland must adapt too. That is where ORION comes in.
As a catalyst for change, ORION will encourage collaboration with Shetland stakeholders and projects with a net zero focus to help generate clean, affordable power, help eradicate fuel poverty, protect the environment, and provide job opportunities throughout the isles’ supply chain.
The idea of developing a Shetland energy hub was first promoted by the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) in 2018 and the project has developed rapidly since then. By January 2020, Shetland Islands councillors had approved plans to set up and fund a three-year project to explore the opportunities linked to a renewable energy hub. By spring 2020 that project had been named ORION (Opportunity for Renewable Integration with Offshore Networks).
The project has brought together UK and Scottish government agencies, regulators, industry stakeholders, and other key organisations to develop a far-reaching clean energy plan for Shetland and the wider region. Partners in ORION include Shetland Islands Council (SIC), Net Zero Technology Centre, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the University of Strathclyde.
Why Shetland? Shetland has been a major energy hub for the last 50 years, critical to the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry. The region is a well-connected, outward-looking community with ambitious plans to play a central role in the energy transition, and all the critical components needed to become a clean energy hub: abundant natural resources for wind, wave and tidal energy; strategically important current and future hydrocarbon resources; established energy and marine industries with robust supply chains; a knowledgeable and skilled workforce; ambitious and forward-looking political leadership.
Image: Unsplash stock image, Regina Mansor
The initiation of the ORION project started by developing a vision “Providing clean sustainable energy for our future” then setting out clear aims, namely: create on Shetland a green hydrogen export business at industrial scale by harnessing offshore wind power and creating new jobs; transform Shetland’s current dependency on fossil fuels to affordable renewable energy to address fuel poverty and improve community wealth; enable offshore oil and gas sector transition to net zero utilising renewable energy to sustain thousands of jobs and security of supply.
A strategy was then developed to set out project governance, resourcing, strategic partnerships, stakeholder mapping and engagement.
ORION as a strategic framework encourages collaboration with stakeholders and projects with a renewable energy, clean fuels and net zero focus. This connection to an array of different organisations both public and private has enabled experts from different sectors/backgrounds to input to the project which includes academic, business and government organisations locally and across the UK.
Communication is a key aspect to assessing options and overcoming challenges. Workshops and meetings with similar projects and organisations with the same aims and ambitions allowed for information and resource sharing to make sure that research and work was not done twice.
The ORION project started in April 2020 and is still in an early appraise stage. Increased effort is now being applied to connect the project with the local community, developing local supply chain skills and capability in renewable energy and a focus on government and investor engagement.
kg of green hydrogen produced.
Decreased use of fossil fuels by sector (including CO2 emission reduction).
Number of low-carbon retrofits and replacement of vessels and vehicles.
Number of green jobs created and sustained.