Community investment funds associated with SSE’s renewable energy developments have bolstered local, not-for-profit initiatives by nearly £3 million over the past year.
A new report also reveals that for each pound awarded by SSE through its grant-making programme, recipients sourced an additional £8.20 in ‘match funding’ from other sources, raising the overall impact of the cash to £24 million.
For example, the 350MW Clyde wind farm provided £650,000 in community grants in the South Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders regions in the last financial year. Coupled with the community benefit fund from the 172MW Clyde Extension wind farm, currently in construction, over £60 million will be provided during the lifetime of the developments.
SSE community investment funds are part of a commitment made during the development of the company’s onshore wind and hydro projects in Great Britain, with funding decisions taken by independent community panels or trusts. More than 400 local groups – primarily in Scotland but also North Lincolnshire and Essex – were awarded grants to a total value of £2,965,758 over the 12 month period.
More than £150,000 of this was invested in employment and skills development with 79 training positions directly supported, including several apprenticeship schemes in the Highlands.
A highlight from the year was the launch of the community fund associated with Strathy North wind farm in Sutherland, which will provide over £4.5 million over the next 25 years.
Launched in May 2014, the fund serves a population of 940 people across the three remote coastal communities of Bettyhill, Strathnaver and Altnaharra, Melvich, and Strathy and Armadale.
In its first year, the community panel distributed over £250,000 helping a diverse range of projects come to fruition. In addition to community hall upgrades, a multi-use sports pitch, and equipment for sports groups, the fund supported the construction of the community’s first ever bowling green with a £55,000 grant, plus the set up of a market garden selling local produce through the Allt Beag Armadale Trust.
Other key awards included £40,000 for The Ericht Trust towards, a community buy-out of a disused school in Blairgowrie for redevelopment as a community cinema and venue. In Highland Perthshire, a major high speed broadband project was given a £50,000 boost to train and employ local technicians.
Jim Johnston, from Bettyhill, North Sutherland 0 a member of the SSE Strathy North Community Fund panel – said:
“Helping to disburse the Strathy North Fund in its first year has been a hugely rewarding experience as our fragile community has never before had access to anything resembling it under local control.
“I’m confident that the community will rise to the opportunities offered and maximise the usefulness of the fund in the years to come.”