Scottish Renewables publish new guidelines for Community Benefits

This week the industry trade body Scottish Renewables launched a new protocol for onshore wind developments and community benefits in Scotland. The protocol outlines a series of guidelines  for community benefits stemming from new onshore wind developments.

This is the first protocol of this kind to be used in Scotland.

The protocol outlines four key commitments for onshore wind developments in Scotland. Firstly, developers are committed to providing a yearly community benefit of £5000 per megawatt (or equivalent) for all wind farm developments with a generating capacity of 5 Megawatts or over. Secondly,developers are required to support and follow the forthcoming Community Benefit Good Practise Guidance. This Guidance is currently being developed by a number of bodies in partnership. These bodies include the Scottish Government, Local Energy Scotland (LES), Scottish Renewables, Foundation Scotland, Consumer Futures as well as other industry partners, communities and local governments. Thirdly, all new onshore developments are to signed up to the Scottish Government’s Community Benefit Register. Lastly, developers are committed to exploring the potential of community ownership of renewable infrastructure as well as cooperating with the Scottish Government in producing further good practise guidance. It should be noted that this guidance does not apply for developments which already have community benefit agreements in place or those developments for which a final planning decision has been made.

Scottish Renewables Chief Executive, Niall Stuart, made the following statement at the launch of the new protocol:

“We want to clearly state our industry’s commitment to delivering local benefits from every new wind farm in Scotland.  The protocol will also ensure a consistent approach to the development of community benefit agreements.

“According to the Scottish Government’s online register, community benefit has topped £5 million per year and we’re keen to build on that success as new projects are developed.

“To date we’ve seen major changes being brought about thanks to community benefit funding, for example, energy efficiency measures, college bursaries, investment in local museums, cycle paths and tracks, and even funding for community transport schemes.”

Mr Stuart added: “As the most mature of renewable technologies, the benefits from onshore wind stretch far beyond the local area. Wind power meets the equivalent of more than 20 per cent of our electricity demand, tackles climate change, is responsible for attracting more than £1.3 billion of investment into the Scottish economy and employs thousands of people too.

“There are a number of examples across the country such as Earlsburn and Neilston where local communities have a financial stake in the wind farm by owning individual turbines or entire projects. By encouraging our members to explore community ownership as a possibility, we hope to strengthen the relationship between developers and local people to maximise the benefits onshore wind can bring.”

Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing also commented:

I welcome today’s announcement by Scottish Renewables of the first set of standards that have been developed by the Scottish onshore wind industry that will ensure commitment on community benefits standards.

“The Scottish protocol goes further than those adopted in other parts of the UK in that, as well as the baseline rate, developers will be committing to consider the scope for direct community investment in their schemes, as well as to adhere to our forthcoming Good Practice Guidance and to use our public Register.

“Scotland is continuing to lead the way on community energy, and this commitment to a baseline level of community benefits of at least £5k per MW continues to set the pace. This protocol is an important step in the right direction as we move towards a position where as many new wind farms as possible, even small scale developments, are able to sign up to these commitments.

“In light of recent announcements regarding the renewable sector in Scotland these set of standards not only show strong leadership from Scottish Renewables, but also the huge investment opportunities still to come make it even more vital that DECC think again about the level of support being proposed through Electricity Market Reform.”

It should be stated that 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 – as had previously been the case). 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.

In other news it was announced last week that the Scottish island of Gigha will be the site for testing of new battery storage systems. The island is already home to several wind turbines which are supplying power locally as well as feeding into the grid on the mainland. However, there is a limit to how much power the island can export to the mainland. Currently any excess is going unused. The new battery systems will allow power to be stored at times of excess generation and will mean that less power will have to be imported from the mainland. The scheme is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and will use large-scale batteries containing 75,000 litres of sulphuric acid. Such battery systems, if tested successfully, could be used across isolated regions of the country and help to achieve the renewable energy targets laid out at both UK and Scottish Government levels.

The new Community Benefit protocol laid out by Scottish Renewables will serve both developers and communities. Communities will know exactly the level of funding they should be expected to receive and developers will benefit from increased awareness of the Community Benefit Programme.

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