Social Impact Assessment of BIG HIT: A report into the societal impact of the project

Guangling Zhao, Eva Ravn Nielsen

Research output: Book/ReportReportResearch

346 Downloads (Pure)


The BIG HIT project will create a replicable hydrogen territory in the Orkney Islands (Northern part of Scotland) by implementing a fully integrated model of hydrogen production, storage, transportation and utilised for heat, power and mobility purposes. The system will utilised otherwise curtailed electricity from one wind turbine on the island Shapinsay and from one wind turbine and 7 tidal test sites on the island Eday. It will make use of in total 1.5 MW capacity of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) electrolyser to convert the electricity into ~50 t pa of hydrogen. Part of the hydrogen will be used to provide heat to local primary schools. Part of hydrogen will be transported by ferry in hydrogen tube trailers to the largest town of the Orkney Islands named Kirkwall, where it will be used to fuel a 75 kW fuel cell (which will provide heat and power to the harbour buildings and 2 ferries when docked). Finally, a part of the hydrogen will be used at a refuelling station to fuel a fleet of 5 fuel cell vans.

This report presents an estimate of the potential social impacts of solutions implemented by the BIG HIT project. The social life cycle assessment methodology is used to analyse the potential social impact. There are five main stakeholder categories included: workers, local community, society (national and global), consumers, and value chain actors. Under each stakeholder, subcategories are addressed and analysed.
The objective of this report is to explore whether there are significant social impacts one should be aware of in the project. The input data used for the impact analysis is from surveys, interviews, and national statistical data.Furthermore, a master thesis has been conducted analysing the social impact of the hydrogen technologies at the Orkney Islands as a supplement to the analysis carried out within the project. The master thesis builds on interviews, surveys and literature studies.

The impact results for each stakeholder and subcategories were as follows:
Workers: Freedom of association and collective bargaining are positive; the working hours follows national standards, no health and safety issues of concern, and no risk of child labour as part of the project.
Local community: Local community have been highly involved in this project; the local employment increased due to very good collaboration between local community and companies/partners; the project shows positive support from local community to access material/immaterial resources. This project does not cause any potential safety issues to the local community. There is a slight concern that the new economy could have a negative effect on the cultural heritage and traditional industry like fishing.
Society: The public is highly committed to sustainable development including renewable energy and green hydrogen. The project has positive potential contribution to economic development of renewable energy. The project is supporting technology innovation and development of electrolyser technology and fuel cell technology.
Consumers: There is no potential health and safety issues from this project. The public shows concerns about the safety of hydrogen distribution and use. The public needs further communication and confidence with the safe use of hydrogen.

Value chain actors: Fair competition and loyal supplier relationships within the project have positive effect on promoting social responsibility.

The main finding from the master thesis conducted is that both positive and negative impacts have emerged: "The properties of renewable energy development have already brought benefits to the region and the communities. It has brought employment opportunities through working directly for the BIG HIT Projects and indirectly through knock-on effects and initiatives. Over the life-cycle of the project, there would undoubtedly be increased job opportunities, energy security, and innovation, development of skills and transfer of knowledge along with much more as previously discussed. However, there have also been some unintentional negative impacts. [...] At the community level, what is primarily an issue is whether local communities will receive an appropriate balance of benefits to compensate for the costs associated with negative impacts on their livelihoods."

The hydrogen energy system implemented by the BIG HIT project can have positive social impact to local communities regarding local job creation and renewable energy transition. It also has positive impact for the society with respect to technology innovation. This study did not show any significant negative social impact of the concept implemented by the project.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Energy Conversion and Storage, Technical University of Denmark
Number of pages155
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

BIG HIT: Building Innovative Green Hydrogen Systems in an Isolated Territory: a Pilot for Europe.

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Social Impact Assessment of BIG HIT: A report into the societal impact of the project'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this