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Highland Council set out community benefit expectations from renewables

Highland Council has agreed to establish a Social Value Charter for Renewables Investment, which will inform developers planning on investing in the region of the council’s expectations in terms of how the community should benefit from such projects. 

It also outlines how the Council will work with those developers to help them achieve their aims.

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Due to many of the current community funds having been in place prior to the 2014 acceptance of £5,000 per MW as a good practice figure, Highland are currently only receiving an average of £3,000 per MW.

Under new proposals, investors will contribute not only the full £5,000 per MW to community funds but will contribute a further £7,500 per MW to a central, strategic fund supporting economic development, increasing prosperity and achieving equity for communities across Highland.

Leader of the Council Raymond Bremner said: ‘Highland has wealth of resources and expanding renewables development and the growth of production and investment in renewable energy in Highland has brought opportunities to the area. However, as time progresses, and the scale of renewables increases, there is a need to ensure that the wider Highland community can benefit more equally and fairly from profits being generated.

‘In May, Highland Council has agreed a £2b plan which will deliver wide ranging investment across communities in the Highlands, with over £1bn of capital investment in schools and roads over the next 10 years in phase one of the programme. This investment, coupled with the vast potential of income from the renewable energy industry, offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure inclusive growth and lasting benefits for all Highland communities.’

The council believe that the total community benefit funding that could be available from operational, planned and recommissioned onshore wind projects could grow to £17.5m per year by 2030. It is also thought that this figure could be at least matched by income from offshore wind.

The Social Value Charter for Renewables Investment sets out a 9-point plan to:

  1. Retain community benefit, and enable a collaborative approach with local communities to create a mechanism for them to transfer their residual community benefit sums to a strategic fund to bring added value to their community.
  2. Create a Strategic Fund and a Fund Partnership which will set out investment priorities for Highland communities
  3. Create legacy housing to support sustainable communities
  4. Support the development of the Highland Investment Plan projects
  5. Develop shared ownership models of investment in renewables
  6. Support skills and training initiatives
  7. Provide a Highland Project Bank, identifying community projects and initiatives to secure additional investment
  8. Fast-track for grid connections essential to growth
  9. Maximising socio-economic prosperity through the planning system

Convener Bill Lobban added: ‘The Social Value Charter… is intended to make sure that the people of the Highlands get a share in the vast profits produced. There is a potential for many millions more per annum of investment into the Highlands. The scale of the opportunity is considerable, however currently, despite being at the centre of renewable development and investment, Highland as a region is not being compensated accordingly or able to translate this wealth into the necessary infrastructure to support the economic growth.

‘Given the voluntary nature of the social value investors and developers need to commit to, it is important to set out a framework for Highland to support discussions with suppliers, and clarity on the price and privilege of doing business in Highland. Developing a more consistent approach to levering social benefit from renewables investment will enable greater benefit for Highland communities.’

Paul Day
Paul is the editor of Public Sector News.


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