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The Environmental Research Institute (ERI) was set up in 2000 and is based in Thurso, Scotland. Part of the North Highland College, University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), the ERI has a portfolio of multidisciplinary research activities that address contemporary environmental issues. The ERI’s activities are wide-ranging and include research (applied and fundamental); knowledge transfer; consultancy & commercial services; and education & training. We currently focus on a number of priorities:

  • renewable energy & the environment
  • climate change
  • ecology & ecosystems
  • biogeochemistry
  • biotechnology & bioresources and
  • emerging contaminants and ecotoxicology.

Research themes at the ERI are issue driven: they address regional, national and international environmental issues. Modern laboratory facilities house a wide range of state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation – including gas chromatography, high performance liquid chromatography, mass spectrometers, scanning electron microscope, etc. Together with the ERI’s modelling and survey capabilities (including a coastal survey vessel), these allow the ERI to undertake environmental research and provide services to a very high standard. As part of North Highland College-UHI, the ERI is also engaged in the provision and delivery of Masters and Ph.D. programmes. Its MSc. (by research) in Renewable Energy & the Environment has been designed specifically to meet the needs of the emerging renewable energy sector.

As part of its strategic objectives, the ERI seeks to provide quality service and knowledge transfer activity that are relevant and responsive to the needs of the region. Our reputation has been built on the close working relationships we have developed with local businesses and public agencies across the Highlands in sectors that include renewable energy, aquaculture, distilling, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Our ethos of working in partnership and collaboration has led to our involvement in major national and European projects, and continues with our involvement with RASLRES.

ERI involvement with RASLRES

The Highlands & Islands of Scotland are burdened by high fuel prices, and contribute to global warming through high per capita energy consumption. As part of the ERI’s Renewable Energy and the Environment and Biotechnology and Bioresources Research themes, we have worked on a number of projects relating to both wood fuel supply and on identifying suitable species for wood fuels in order to help local communities and businesses reduce emissions. We’ve achieved this through our focus on knowledge-transfer opportunities with communities and local businesses.

The RASLRES project is very significant in the light of Scotland’s renewable energy policies. The government target is to achieve 50 per cent of Scotland’s energy needs through renewable sources by 2020, and the strategy to do so has a number of key policy pillars and actions that the project will help address. These are:

  • linking environmental sustainability to economic growth
  • creating new indigenous industries in rural areas
  • adopting tripartite development models
  • promoting and accelerating the penetration of biomass technology.

RASLRES provides another opportunity for the ERI to apply its expertise and engage with communities not only in Scotland but across the Northern Periphery region and contribute towards achieving regional, national and European renewable energy targets.

Work packages

The ERI is leading Work Package 5 (WP5) of RASLRES (‘Rural Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Research, Analysis and Monitoring) and will also provide assistance to Work Package 2 on emission-based policy.

WP5’s strategic objective is to use information gleaned from the RASLRES initiative to establish a best-practice emissions protocol for measuring and forecasting green house gas (GHG) emissions for rural communities. The toolkit will be incorporated into the stimulation models, and applied to RASLRES pilot projects.

While WP5 will examine overall GHG in the context of the RASLRES project, some resources will also be used to evaluate the wider implications of emissions (for instance, the production of airborne particulates).

WP5 will also review and identify a suitable CO2 emissions compliance (accreditation) for the RASLRES project (e.g. ISO 17025:2005 and CEN/TS 15675:2007).

The ERI also intends to model a life cycle assessment tool to forecast emissions scenarios that will be caused by the implementation of new renewable energy solutions in rural areas. The tool will allow the calculation of emissions across the entire fuel chain from growing to end use.

Finally, the ERI will develop a model that will calculate the social and economic impacts of locally implemented renewable energy solutions across rural areas in the NPP region.


Environmental Research Institute
Neil James
Tel.: +44-18478-89599

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