Rural communities are benefiting from clean energy push
Communities and rural businesses around Scotland can apply to a £23.5m government loan scheme to help them get community energy renewable projects up to the planning stage. The scheme is designed to make sure communities all over Scotland receive the maximum benefit possible from the projects it funds.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing declared the scheme open in a speech to the Scottish Highland Renewable Energy Conference in Inverness earlier this year.
Communities and rural businesses all over Scotland have already benefited from the loans, which are designed to help small-scale projects which directly benefit their local area, and which would not proceed without the loan.
Projects have already received more than £4.5m in loans, including a Borders housing association which will use the proceeds to improve the houses it offers for rent, and a Highland charity which will become more financially sustainable, thanks to a hydro scheme.
The Community and Renewable Energy Loan Scheme is designed to support projects before they reach planning as this stage is considered too high risk for commercial loans. Individual projects can receive loans of up to £150,000 to cover 95 per cent of agreed costs. Free local advice and support is also available.
Priority is given to projects which give the highest value of benefit to their local communities. The scheme is open to community organisations, rural businesses and joint ventures between the two.
Alongside the scheme, Energy Minster Fergus Ewing updated on progress towards the community and locally owed target and launched the Community Benefit Register, designed to help communities all over Scotland maximise the rewards they receive from renewable energy developments, and a database of all communityowned energy resources in Scotland.
Ewing said: “The Scottish Government is determined to ensure communities all over Scotland reap the benefit from renewable energy.” Meanwhile, Argyll and Bute Council’s new administration has welcomed the Rural Scotland in Focus 2012 report from the SAC Rural Policy Centre. The report’s findings, outlining the need for investment in some of Scotland’s most vulnerable areas, support the development and regeneration plans that the council and its partners already have under way for towns such as Campbeltown and Dunoon.
Commenting on the report, John Semple, Lead Councillor for Energy, Development, Infrastructure and Tourism at Argyll and Bute Council, said: “This report reinforces the importance of the package of multi-million-pound regeneration and development projects we already have in place in Argyll and Bute aimed at reducing the vulnerability of remote towns such as Campbeltown and Dunoon.
“Our new Economic Development Action Plan will be published next year, it will be led by the council and developed in collaboration with community planning partners, such as Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the local business community of Argyll and Bute and will have strong links with government priorities.” Argyll and Bute’s renewable energy action plan is also already under way and will unlock the potential of the area’s renewable energy assets with £7bn of private and public investment planned over the next decade. Through Business Gateway, over 1000 new businesses are being supported in Argyll and Bute and major infrastructure investment into transport, the grid and utilities has also been prioritised as these are seen as an essential enabler for the area’s growth.
Redevelopment work specific to Campbeltown and the surrounding areas includes the Townscape Heritage Initiative, which builds the economic regeneration of the town centre; improving the town’s berthing facility; and the Kinloch Road residential development. All of these initiatives support the Kintyre Renewables project that aims to facilitate the development of Campbeltown and Machrihanish as a centre of the renewable energy industry in Scotland.
As outlined in the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan, this area will create a national ‘hub’ for the renewable energy industry based on the west coast of Scotland in terms of manufacturing, maintenance, installation and research and development.
This investment and development will create significant employment opportunities and promote sustainable economic development at the local, Argyll and Bute and Scottish levels.
Already, Winter Towers Ltd has made safe a multi-million-pound investment near Campbeltown, guarding and creating over a hundred manufacturing jobs. In addition, nearly £10m of investment into road and harbour infrastructure is also planned to assist the growth of the renewables industry in Kintyre.