Associate Feature: Onshore Wind to Play Key Role in Net Zero and Community Wealth Building
While offshore wind has dominated much of the recent debate on the future of renewables, there is no doubt that onshore wind will also play a key role in delivering the Scottish Government’s renewable energy and net zero targets.
Onshore wind currently accounts for close to two-thirds of Scotland’s renewable power capacity, generating three times more power than offshore wind, and Ministers have committed to a doubling of capacity to 20GW between now and 2030.
And the benefits from further expansion are clear: onshore wind costs around a third of the costs of gas-fired generation; it is a mature technology which can be deployed quickly with the right planning framework and delivery of grid infrastructure; and can also deliver significant biodiversity enhancements across Scotland.
Moreover, onshore wind continues to benefit from strong public backing, with support from 77% of respondents stating in the latest UK Government survey. It is also responsible for more than 10,000 jobs across Scotland according to research by the Fraser of Allander Institute.
However, hitting Ministers’ 2030 ambition cannot be taken for granted. Progress is dependent on faster planning decisions, an expanded supply chain and workforce, and significant upgrades to the electricity transmission network. Likewise, investment is threatened by the retrograde transmission charging framework which penalises projects in Scotland and incentivises projects in the south.
Community wealth building is also central to realising the opportunity of a successful onshore wind sector. At Muirhall Energy, we are working to make sure the development of onshore wind benefits the communities which host our projects and the surrounding areas. We pride ourselves on the four key pillars of our community engagement process and offering:
1. Community Engagement and Consultation – We believe in engaging early, frequently and using these consultations to shape better proposals. We engage with communities throughout the development process through formal consultation events, newsletters, drop in community information sessions and through community councils.
2. Community Investment Funding – Our larger projects deliver a community investment fund equal to £7,000 per MW, well above the level recommended in the Scottish Government Good Practice Principles, and seek to offer additional benefits tailored to local circumstances, such as high-speed broadband. We also favour, where appropriate, a Company Limited by Guarantee structure, allowing payments to be made directly to the community, and for all decision making to remain in the community.
3. Initial Investment Fund – We offer a separate pot of funding, on a per turbine basis, which opens to applications from the point construction begins, allowing communities to access funding for projects though the construction period.
4. Community Shared Ownership – 10% community shared ownership is offered on all our projects after construction is complete, which protects the community from construction and financing risk, and allows the development of legacy benefits. By using a portion of the Community Investment Fund to service the capital loan, communities can then distribute the remainder of the fund along with dividends generated from their shareholding, either on an annual basis, or through planning for larger infrastructure projects at specific project years. Communities will then have a dependable and regular income stream with which to deliver their Community Action Plan and other ambitions.
While there are undoubtedly challenges ahead for the sector, onshore wind is set to play a key role in delivering progress towards future emissions targets, just as it has over the last 15 years. With the right approach from developers and government, we can make sure that communities across Scotland take part in and benefit from its future growth.
This article is sponsored by Muirhall Energy