A STUDY is seeking to understand the everyday challenges facing one of Scotland's most deprived areas in Alloa.

As reported in the Advertiser last week, the updated Scottish Index for Multiple Deprivation (SMID) showed one zone in Alloa south ranked the fourth most deprived of nearly 7,000 areas in the whole of the country.

Community groups and organisations are hard at work to improve the area and researchers, led by the University of Stirling, will also look into specific aspects impacting on people's lives there and in the wider town.

Specifically, the project will focus on the south and east of Alloa and will be looking into energy use and future provision.

It will engage with communities on the challenges of fuel poverty and its impact on decision making in the household, health, energy behaviours, mobility and access to local services.

The hope is that the study will be able to support local planning around energy provision and that it will provide a robust evidence base, informing future activity related to the City Deal.

Leading the project is Dr Jennifer Dickie, lecturer in environmental geography at the university.

She said: "The overarching aim of this project is to understand the everyday energy challenges facing disadvantaged communities and explore – through engagement, collaboration and innovative co-creation – pathways towards a healthier, wealthier and greener future for local people."

Her team will be engaging with local community members from a range of third sector organisations, but chiefly, through key partners at Hawkhill Community Association.

The team promises fun and interactive activities to explore how energy should be used, generated and shared in the Wee County.

The activities are co-designed with the Innovation School at Glasgow School of Art; other project partners include Clackmannanshire Council, Clackmannanshire Third Sector Interface, the City Region Deal Programme Office and the British Geological Survey (BGS).

Interestingly, the latter – as previously reported by the Advertiser a few years ago – had carried out extensive work to map old and abandoned coal mines and workings in the Wee County and wider area.

Part of the reason was to explore opportunities to utilise untapped natural resources to generate geothermal energy which would be warm enough to heat local homes, schools and businesses.

It is unlikely this method could generate electricity, but would be a green step in increasing energy efficiency.

What could generate power is an innovative project being developed by Edinburgh company Gravitricity, highlighted by the Advertiser in 2018.

This pioneering technology would also utilise abandoned mine shafts, directors explaining this could be tested in the Wee County, albeit in a different way.

The system proposed would act as an efficient energy storage device, using excess power, when available, to raise a 3,000t cylindrical weight and lowering it using gravity to generate power for the grid when needed, for instance when renewables are not producing enough.

Speaking of her upcoming study in the local area, Dr Dickie added: "This offers an unprecedented opportunity for local communities, particularly those who face inequalities and significant poverty, to share their expert local knowledge or 'social intelligence' and aspirations to drive much needed, locally appropriate positive change."