The £10 million milestone is recorded in the latest update of the Scottish Government’s Community Benefit Register, which records the income communities receive from renewable energy projects. These range from large scale wind farms such as Whitelee, near Glasgow – the UK’s largest onshore wind farm – to small farm and community projects.
Speaking at the Scottish Green Energy Awards, Sturgeon said the figures highlighted the Scottish Government’s commitment to renewable energy and ensuring communities benefit from energy developments.
But she also warned that the recent attacks on support for renewable energy by the UK Government will make further increasing these benefits more difficult.
And – speaking in advance of her visit to the UN Climate Change summit in Paris – the First Minister also highlighted how Scotland’s success in developing renewables is contributing to the fight to tackle climate change.
She said: “Our national guidance has encouraged developers to increase the value of the community benefits they offer. Communities across Scotland are now receiving over £10 million a year from onshore renewable projects. That figure is set to rise.
“Local energy now helps to fund energy efficiency schemes, fuel poverty alleviation programmes and befriending projects which reduce isolation for elderly people. They meet local priorities because they are run by local communities.”
But a Scottish Renewables spokeswoman warned: “This new figure shows the huge contribution that green energy projects are making to communities across Scotland, and the scale of money available to local people to invest in the things that matter to them and their area.
“But it is only part of the picture. Onshore wind has driven the huge growth in renewable energy generation in Scotland, is making a key contribution to our 2020 climate change targets
“However, the sector’s future growth – and all the benefits that would bring – hangs in the balance after a series of cuts to support by the UK Government.
“Many projects are already on hold and could be scrapped altogether without some form of plan for continued investment in the sector.”
Woolfords, Auchengray and Tarbrax Improvement Foundation (WAT IF) is a community charity in South Lanarkshire which receives £51,000 per year from the Muirhall Wind Farm Extension to support implementation of a local community action plan.
Development officer Jemma Black said: “The income we receive from the Muirhall Energy project allows us to deliver community initiatives such as a community minibus trial, which is helping us to research and plan for better rural transport, and the renovation of the local hall and car park which is a vital resource.
“Having a long-term fund for our community is fantastic as it gives us the opportunity to deliver the local residents’ vision for their communities, and allows us to support many local groups through easy-to-access grant schemes.”
Chris Morris, Local Energy Scotland manager, commented: “We are delighted to see that the income communities receive from renewable energy projects is now over £10 million per year and the register is available on our website.
“We provide a range of support through the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme to help communities to maximise the local benefit from renewable energy whether that’s support to a community to build their own small hydro power scheme or help them to invest in a commercial wind farm.”
Sturgeon also warned that the UK Government must review its policies to ensure energy security by investing in new technologies.
She spoke about the need to look at more renewable alternatives as she prepares to head to France to promote Scotland’s track record of action on climate change.
“I’ve been left astonished by the UK Government’s decision to cut its subsidies to renewables. For those in the sector, the sense of frustration must be even stronger.
“And that frustration must be compounded when the renewables sector sees the UK Government tying itself to a very expensive 35 year contract for nuclear generation – when it could be supporting new renewable technology whose costs will continue to come down over time.
“It’s deeply disappointing that when countries should be looking at greener, cleaner alternatives, the UK Government continues to rely on gas and nuclear. It is going backwards on energy policy when it should be taking a lead.”