Kirk backs Scottish community energy plans – and laments SSE surcharge – to combat fuel poverty

Kirk logoThe Church of Scotland has called for an expansion of community-owned renewable energy developments to combat fuel-poverty – particularly in remote Highlands and Islands parishes.

The Kirk is also keen to combat global warming and cut C02 emissions and urges Scot-Government to make community energy schemes a ‘central part of Scotland’s energy mix’.

In its response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on their Community Energy Policy Statement, a Kirk spokesman said: “Wewelcome the ambition of the Scottish Government and shares its aspiration to make community energy a central part of Scotland’s energy mix.

“We recognise that this can help support local communities both rural and urban can make a considerable contribution to tackle fuel poverty.

“There is no reason why many more communities , perhaps the majority of rural communities and many in urban Scotland, should not benefit from this development and we support the continued roll out of community energy to be as inclusive as possible.

“We suggest an ambitious target: that every community that has the opportunity to develop a community energy scheme should be encouraged to do so and that the Scottish Government examine what practical steps would be needed to achieve this ambition.

 “Community energy projects could promote community income and could help sustain remote communities that may otherwise be at risk of continued decline. It may be that the development of local energy economies offers one of the best hopes to address rural fuel poverty.”

The Kirk cited the example of Westray where a community fuel poverty survey identified serious fuel poverty problems. The Community Development Trust adopted a proposal where a power sales company might be set up on the island buying power from the turbine, leasing distribution lines and meters from SSE and creating employment in the admin.

Currently the Community Turbine Company sells power at 4.1p per unit, a large differential from current consumer purchase price.

However, the Kirk also cited local opposition to the SSE surcharge of 2p per unit extra to all customers in  remote areas, areas in which fuel poverty is already well above the national average and where so  much renewable energy is generated.

The spokesman added; “We urge Scot-Government to examine these issues in more detail and to consider how they could be reduced to help achieve the vision of community energy economy.”

Meanwhile, Community Energy Scotland said that whilst the Scottish Government is on the right track, ‘changes are needed to both policy and regulation to reflect the greater desire and demand for community energy projects north of the border.’

A CES spokesperson said:Clearly, many more communities have the scope to participate in a wide range of community energy projects. In Scotland, we can see few limits to the benefits of local energy economies across the whole range of social, economic and environmental metrics.”

Almost 30 submissions have been made to the consultation.  A government response will follow next year.

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