The village of Drumnadrochit, to the north side of Loch Ness, has grown significantly over the last two decades. This growth has created the need to plan the village’s development effectively.
The community-led Local Energy Plan for Drumnadrochit has been developed to help the community to look at its existing and future energy needs in terms of power, heat and transport and work out the priorities for action.
Developing Drumnadrochit’s Local Energy Plan
The development of Drumnadrochit’s Local Energy Plan was led by a local steering group including the following local organisations: Soirbheas, Glen Urquhart Rural Community Association (GURCA), the Chamber of Commerce and the Community Council.
The development of a Drumnadrochit Local Energy Plan will in turn feed into the development of a Drumnadrochit Community Action Plan, which is due to be developed over 2018.
Specialist technical support to develop the plan was provided by the Wood Group, with Beyond Green supporting local engagement activity and local ambassadors for the plan making sure local people had the opportunity to contribute to the creation of the plan.
Beyond Green facilitated a series of three workshops in early 2018 to support the community to identify its specific energy needs and inspire local ambassadors to drive community engagement.
During workshop one the local ambassadors were asked to consider the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). This helped stimulate discussions around their own community’s needs and challenges. Using the goals as a connection to local energy, a number of criteria to assess local energy projects were raised. Those criteria were then tested through an online and paper survey, promoted by the ambassadors to the community to gather wider opinions.
During workshop two, local ambassadors reviewed a number of energy opportunities which support their community’s needs. The opportunities presented to the ambassadors were specifically targeted from ideas identified in the first workshop. Impacts of the survey results on the criteria were reflected on, as well as opportunities to obtain further responses. The ambassadors provided ideas for a second survey to ask local people their views on specific energy opportunities.
Workshop three used the survey results and interactive exercises to help them prioritise energy opportunities in line with community interests and needs. Feedback from the ambassadors and the steering group are integrated into the final Local Energy Plan.
Implementing the plan
The Local Energy Plan was launched at a Green Living Day event in September 2018. The event, which was attended by 120 people, included activities such as electric bike and car test-drives, fuel efficient driver training, water saving advice, and other related activities eg growing, volunteering, health walk, bike surgery, clothes swap.
The plan proposed thirteen actions to progress including those with an immediate focus as well as longer-term opportunities to develop. Actions were based around four key themes: energy efficiency. energy generation. transport, and smart energy systems.
Local members of the Steering Group have progressed the majority of actions that were identified.
Opportunities to install renewable energy solutions at many of the community’s buildings have been investigated. There have been challenges around resource, technical specification, and funding for many of these. The Glenurquhart Centre upgraded its heating system and installed air source heat pumps in February 2020.
A transport feasibility study was undertaken in 2019. This set out nine proposed solutions to address key transport challenges that are faced by the Drumnadrochit community and those in surrounding glens.
The community has now bought the disused tourist information centre, taking over ownership in February 2021. The new Loch Ness Hub will provide visitor information services and will also act as a community transport hub promoting greener modes of transport. The refurbished building will receive power from newly installed solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and its heat from a new air source heat pump.
The Loch Ness Hub and key partner Soirbheas will coordinate and progress the identified transport solutions, and the formation of the Loch Ness Hub is an important part in doing this. An ebike community trial, the first transport project, will launch in April 2021. This project will see a range of ebikes being made freely available on three-to-four-week loans, as well as a programme of road safety training and bike maintenance. The project will run for 12 to 18 months at which time the eBikes will revert to a hire scheme for both locals and visitors.
The introduction of the initiatives will also run alongside behaviour change and motivational activities to encourage a reduction in people using their cars for journeys that are under a mile long. The long-term vision is to provide commuters with a range of options including community transport solutions and information on public transport, along with car and lift share schemes.