By DARA BUTTERFIELD
Social Investment Scotland, which recently announced its funding of the UK’s largest community-owned commercial-scale wind farm, Beinn Ghrideag in the Western Isles – has put its weight behind renewable energy as a mechanism for social change.
Alastair Davis, Chief Executive, Social Investment Scotland, commented: “Over the past year, SIS has witnessed a consistent growth in demand for finance from community renewable projects which now account for a fifth (£3m) of its total lending portfolio.
” It seems to fair to say that demand from local communities for investment in renewable energy projects is undergoing a real resurgence, helped in part by a supportive policy context. Initiatives such as Feed-in-Tarrifs and the non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive as well as the Scottish Government’s focus on maximising local ownership have opened up new opportunities for communities.
“Repeated studies have shown that the local economic impact of renewable energy projects is much greater from community-owned schemes than from private developer-led schemes paying into a community-benefit fund.
“In the case of Beinn Ghrideag, it is expected that over the course of 25 year life span, it will return £20 million to community projects across the Western Isles.
“It’s not just bigger communities with more sophisticated administration structures who are turning to renewables to build sustainable futures. Many smaller communities are now looking to renewable energy as a means of securing their local energy requirements whilst generating income to support the local population.
“In an age where community empowerment, sustainability and energy security are three of the biggest issues we face, community renewables have the potential to offer solutions for all three. At SIS, as we look to connect more capital with communities, the renewable energy sector is set to remain a key element of our plans. Our relationship with the Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF), which has co-funded Beinn Ghrideag, will also support this.
“I’m confident that with the right investment, community-owned renewables projects can make a significant social impact in local communities across Scotland and ensure that communities see real benefits from the use of their land and resources.”