A POWERFUL new report has revealed Scotland’s communities could benefit by £170 million per year if Holyrood acts now on renewables.

It calls for the creation of a ­national community wealth fund and the ­Scottish Government to commit to community-owned renewable energy.

The campaign to increase the ­benefits of renewable energy to ­local communities is backed by Community Land Scotland, ­Community Energy Scotland, Development Trusts ­Association Scotland, Scottish ­Communities Finance Ltd and the Scottish Community Alliance.

Their report highlights the risk of corporates and multinationals dominating the vastly expanding ­renewable energy sector, while local communities lose a transformational opportunity.

It points out that accelerated government support would bring Scotland into line with many ­European countries, where the ­local ­communities get much greater ­advantage from the massive growth in renewables.

In Denmark, 50% of onshore wind capacity is community-owned. In Scotland, it’s 2%, and only one new community windfarm became ­operational in 2023.

The community organisations ­argue that current community ­benefit models are out of date, ­calling for community benefit ­payments to be linked to the consumer price index, rather than being frozen as they have been for the past 10 years.

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Furthermore, a National Community Wealth Fund should be established, with a proportion of ­community benefits from onshore, offshore and transmission developments being placed in a national fund to support the delivery of a just transition to net zero for all ­communities across ­Scotland, not just those ­located ­nearest to ­developments.

The Call To Action report also ­prioritises easier access to the ­National Grid for smaller community projects.

Community Energy Scotland policy manager Kristopher Leask said the benefits to society and the economy of having community-owned power businesses were clear.

“That is why most European ­countries transitioning to green ­energy have developed their ­domestically owned and ­democratically owned Green Energy base,” he said.

“This has been achieved not just through large public-sector ­companies, but through community companies and co-operatives.

“Community-owned energy could be transformative, with sustainable wealth creation at community level that feeds through to boost the whole country. Without urgent action, there is a real danger that our communities lose this opportunity.”

Community Land Scotland policy manager Josh Doble pointed out that renewable energy in Scotland is now a multi-billion-pound industry.

“There is now huge corporate ­investment in the renewables sector – offshore and onshore,” he said.

“There is a huge opportunity for communities and for ‘Scotland PLC’ to benefit in a transformational way. Unless urgent action is taken, that ­opportunity could be missed.

“Denmark and other European nations have demonstrated that community-owned wind power can and should be done at much larger scale than the Scottish or UK status quo.

“Local communities in Scotland have long experience of ­delivering successful renewables projects with a high level of expertise which ­generates a significant amount of ­sustainable development ­opportunities. ­However, these developments have slowed in recent years and the community ­energy sector is at risk of stagnation.”

He added: “The Government must work urgently to review its onshore good practice guidance and the ­guidance around community benefit funds to ensure community benefit payments are unrestricted, fair and proportionate.”

The five community ­organisations have prioritised a number of steps to reach the new target, calling on ­Holyrood to set a new target of 1GW of renewable energy ­production ­being community-owned within six years. This would be 10 times the current ­levels of community-owned ­renewables and entirely possible with the current expansion of the ­renewable sector.

This higher target would still only represent 12% of the current ­capacity of onshore windfarms alone but could still deliver £170 million per year directly into communities through earned revenue.

In contrast, the same level of installed capacity of private sector developments – ­paying ­community benefit at the current good practice rate of £5000 per ­installed MW – would bring in just £5m to local communities.  The report calls for the establishment of a cross-party working group to help accelerate rapid expansion of the community energy sector and greater support for shared-ownership agreements between communities and corporates.

Energy minister Gillian Martin said: “Communities are at the heart of our renewable energy ambitions and we are committed to ensuring that people in Scotland benefit from the just energy transition.

“Despite the powers to mandate community benefits from ­renewable energy being reserved to the UK ­Government, we continue to work with communities and a wide range of energy businesses to maximise community benefit from existing and new developments.

“This includes a new onshore wind sector deal, published in September, where the sector ­committed to meet or exceed the community benefit value of £5000 per installed megawatt per annum, index linked for the operational lifetime of the project.

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“Through this voluntary framework, more than £25m of community benefits have been committed to communities in the past 12 months. We are also currently reviewing our Good Practice Principles for ­Offshore Renewables, ahead of public ­consultation in due course.

“We are also committed to supporting the growth of community-owned energy through our Community and Renewable Energy Scheme. To date, this has advised more than 1000 ­organisations and provided more than £61m in funding to ­communities throughout Scotland, ­supporting more than 800 projects and the ­installation of 58.6 MW of ­renewable energy.”