Scottish communities the length and breadth of the country are already sharing the benefits of renewable energy.

We met the Scottish Government’s target for delivering community and locally owned developments five years early.

More than £10 million in community benefit funds are generated every year, supporting hundreds of projects – many of which otherwise wouldn’t leave the drawing board.

Now the Scottish Government and organisations like Local Energy Scotland are keen to build on this success by encouraging more shared ownership projects to come forward.

Shared ownership projects see community organisations, local project partners and private developers investing in, developing and operating projects together.

It’s still a relatively new and emerging concept in the UK. Only around 37 shared ownership projects currently exist, delivering approximately 37MW of operational capacity.

However, the SNP’s manifesto for the recent Scottish Parliament elections said:

“We will ensure that, by 2020, at least half of newly consented renewable energy projects will have an element of shared ownership.”

Scottish Renewables members met at an event last week to discuss what this might mean in practice.

The main points from the Shared Ownership seminar in Glasgow:

  • There is a common will among the industry, stakeholders and community representatives to work together;
  • There’s a lot we can learn from Europe  (more on this later);
  • The shared ownership projects that are getting through at the moment “are the exception, not the rule” (according to Local Energy Scotland Manager Chris Morris).

Jennifer Ramsay, Assistant Programme Manager at Local Energy Scotland, kicked off the event in Glasgow.

She told how LES believe “there can be real, tangible benefits for developers in working more closely with communities”, particularly as communities often know the viewpoints, access routes and land ownership issues in their areas “better than any developer”.

Steve Macken, of developer Lomond Energy, ran through his involvement with the Allt Dearg Community Wind Farm in Argyll.

That scheme, promoted by a local landowner, is 8%-owned by nearby Ardrishaig Community Trust.

Benefits to the area there have been numerous and the Allt Dearg scheme is hugely popular with the local community.

So much so, in fact, that other nearby communities were asking to get involved when an extension was suggested.

Scene Consulting’s Jelte Harnmeijer told the event how he believes shared ownership can benefit the industry too.

He shared his experience from Denmark where he said the country’s “hstory of shared ownership has played a crucial role in inculcating a ‘pro-renewables’ culture and policy regime”.

To Europe again, and evidence that despite beating the Scottish Government’s 500MW 2020 community and locally-owned energy target five years early, we’re still some way behind our European counterparts.

In Germany, 47% of renewables are what’s classed as Bürgerenergie, or energy owned by citizens.

In Scotland, developments accounted for in the community and locally owned target make up less than 1% of our total installed capacity.

There is clear political will for that to change, and to connect Scotland’s people more closely to Scotland’s renewable energy projects.

It’s also clear that this isn’t easy.

No two projects are the same, and no two communities are the same either.

We’ve got to find solutions and structures that work for all parties.

We expect the Scottish Government’s plans for shared ownership to be fleshed out in its energy strategy, which is likely to be released next year, and public consultation events for that piece of work will be held over the summer.

  • Blog by Senior Policy Manager Lindsay Roberts

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