It was announced this week that onshore wind energy developers in Scotland are contributing over £5 million per annum in community benefits. The news was announced by the trade body Scottish Renewables in the run up to the Scottish Renewables Onshore Wind Conference which was held yesterday in Glasgow.
Community Benefits in Scotland are registered on the Holyrood Government’s online Community Contribution Database which was launched in September 2012 by Alex Salmond.
As of now, over £5 million worth of annual contributions are registered from onshore wind. A figure which is certain to increase.
Community Benefits come in many different forms. For example, E.ON Energy’s Rosehall fund awarded £20,000 over three years to the Woodland Trust. This funding has been specifically targeted at the Ledmore & Migdale Woods in East Sutherland. The RES Group development in Meikle Carewe, Aberdeenshire, has led to the creation of the Local Energy Discount Scheme; designed to reduce the energy bills of homes and businesses in the area. RWE npower invested over £407,000 in a variety of community benefit programmes in 2012. The Causeymire Wind Farm in Caithness is providing direct funding to the Halkirk Playgroup and Toddler Group. One renewable energy developer has donated £100,000 to the restoration of the Birks Cinema in Aberfeldy. Perhaps the most prominent example which has been in the news recently is that of the Biggar Museum Trust which has received a substantial amount of funding to construct a new museum building; as discussed in this blog previously.
The news of the level of funding Scotland’s wind industry is supplying was greeted with acclaim by government, industry and campaign groups.
Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Fergus Ewing commented; “It is clear to see the huge benefits that wind turbines, and the renewable energy sector, are bringing to communities across Scotland.”
Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager for industry trade body Scottish Renewables released the following statement:
“It’s fantastic to see that onshore wind developers are working directly with communities to provide local causes in Scotland with more than £5 million in voluntary funding every year. We believe this figure will be much higher as we encourage every developer to sign up their schemes and as new schemes become operational. It’s hard to imagine any other industry being able to offer anywhere near this kind of commitment to local communities.
“Community benefit isn’t just a financial transaction, it can be provided through a variety of means. In some cases the relationship between developer and community goes even further into commercial joint ventures and even complete community ownership.
“We know our members are providing communities with a range of opportunities to invest in projects and initiatives that really matter to them. For example, we’ve seen major investments in local museums, support for baby and toddler groups, college bursaries and even funding for a community transport scheme.”
“These packages are totally voluntary and are not taken into consideration when local authorities are making decisions on an individual planning application. Onshore wind developers have been working with local communities to offer community benefit as a means of sharing the value of their project over its lifetime while tailoring benefit to meet their needs.”
WWF Scotland Director Lang Banks remarked:
“It’s fantastic news that so many communities are already benefiting from Scotland’s rich renewable energy resource.
“If Scotland is to meet it’s 100% renewable ambition then it’s vital that wherever possible local communities are given the opportunity to benefit too.
“One benefit we’d like to see more of in Scotland is direct ownership of wind turbines by communities. Such schemes have helped drive the roll-out of renewables elsewhere in the world, so it’s only right we do the same here.”
Of course whilst much of the media attention has been directed towards the community benefits provided by large scale wind farms; medium scale developments are also contributing a large amount.
For example, we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) provide a community benefit for every single one of our consented developments (whether one is required or not). Often this takes the form of an annual contribution to charities operating at a local level. In other cases we enter into partnership with local authorities and allow them to direct the funding (as is the case with many of the community benefits stemming from large scale wind farms) using their local knowledge to direct funding to where they think it is most needed. We at ILI (RE) are extremely proud of the help we are able to provide to worthy causes up and down the country.
It should be remembered that the £5 million figure being used in the media is only the start. This figure can be expected to rise dramatically over the next few months and years. The Community Benefit Register has been operating for less than a year. Onshore wind power can contribute far more than it has already achieved; just as it can for the nation’s energy generation targets and energy bills.