Many utilities and energy companies across the world support local community projects. Now Local Energy Scotland, a consortium that administers and manages the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), has revealed that local wind and other projects have contributed a record £8.8 million to such initiatives.
“These figures demonstrate how community benefits from renewables offer an unprecedented opportunity to improve people’s lives,” commented Scotland’s energy minister, Fergus Ewing. “Over £8.5 million invested in such diverse projects in the last year demonstrates a great level of commitment from developers, large and small, to ensuring that green energy developments harness not only the wind, but the goodwill of local communities.”
Scotland’s growing renewable sector
Scotland’s renewable sector is comprised primarily of onshore wind projects, with more than £700 million invested in the country in the year to September 2014. CARES’ register lists 115 projects of all scales, from as little as 500kW to the largest entry at 539MW, ScottishPower Renewables’ Whitelee wind farm. In addition six hydro projects are in the register.
Contributions from the companies running these projects, presented in the form of grants, have been used in a diversity of ways, including building a new community hall in Daviot, Aberdeenshire; acquiring paddleboards and mountain bikes to get youngsters outdoors and lay the foundations for a tourist boom in Girvan, Ayrshire; and buying a thermal imaging camera so residents in Sutherland can see where their homes need extra insulation.
In all more than 130 projects have received funding, with payments from recent projects averaging £3,300/MW per year.
Community ownership in renewable projects
CARES is aimed to help rural businesses, land managers, farmers, rural small and medium enterprises, and profit-distributing cooperatives. Based on the principle that local ownership of renewable energy projects will increase rural incomes, as well as contribute to climate change targets and increase the resilience of Scotland’s rural businesses, all applications after the Summer 2015 CARES panel will be required to offer a degree of community ownership.
A Scottish government consultation just closed on good practice principles for shared ownership of onshore renewable energy developments over 50kW proposes that these should include:
• Increased understanding and engagement
• Inclusivity to individuals, whether or not they can afford to contribute financially, and communities
• Mutual beneficiality
Developers are also encouraged to begin discussions with community groups at the earliest reasonable point and for the developers and communities to work together in partnership to maximize mutual benefit.
In one of its most recent projects CARES assisted Kilfinan Community Forest Company (KCFC) secure a £274,000 loan from Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF) and Social Investment Scotland (SIS), to install a 75kW hydro scheme in the community forest. The run-of-river scheme will deliver reliable income to the charity for a minimum of twenty years, as the electricity generated will be sold to the national grid under the government’s feed-in-tariff scheme.
The Scottish government aims to reach a target of 500MW of community and locally owned renewable energy by 2020.