EXCLUSIVE By Scottish Energy News Correspondent
One of the highlights in the Community Energy Scotland year over the past 12 months has been Point and Sandwick Development Trust on the Isle of Lewis, which has successfully developed the UK’s largest community owned windfarm.
Their aim back in 2005 was to develop a project to benefit the whole district and share the income as widely as possible.
They decided to do something different, to develop a project of commercial scale, just as a private developer might, but with their beneficiaries being residents in the whole of the islands.
They consulted widely with their community who selected the most important development projects for the area.
Priorities included home energy efficiency, help for youth with special needs, a life/work skills programme for those with addiction issues, a croft forestry scheme, funding support for the hospice, support for a flagship arts and cultural centre and woodfuel study for domestic heating. They had many challenges along the way, such as the Co-op Bank stepping back from lending at a time when they were near financial close.
However their project was of sufficient scale to interest other commercial lenders and Santander came in with a loan. They kept the community on board throughout, by community meetings, word of mouth, website and newsletters. Their development projects will get annual funding for a five year period.
In Community Energy Scotland’s latest annual report, Chairman Gwen Barrell, commented: “Over this year, we have undertaken very focussed engagement at policy level designed to address policy obstacles to community energy development.
“One particular examples relates to the UK Government’s definition of ‘community’ established to determine eligibility for enhanced benefits under the Feed-in Tariff.
“We were very pleased when the Government accepted the case to include charities in the definition of eligibility. They had previously been excluded – despite their significance in Scotland.”
The charity is due to hold its annual meeting in Inverness on 8 Dec 2015.