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February 2, 2010

Who CARES? Over 600 communities and counting.

The Scottish Government leads the world in the scale of its commitment to cut carbon emissions. A funding scheme to assist communities in making their contribution has been a phenomenal success with over 600 applications to the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES). Launched last April with £8m available for community based projects, the scheme is administered by Community Energy Scotland


Hundreds of communities taking power into their own hands 

Hundreds of communities throughout Scotland are making the switch to clean, green renewable sources of heat and power, saving thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.   Since the Scottish Government launched the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) in April 2009 with £8M allocated for the first year, communities have been lining up to get help.  The scheme has been a great success so far and communities have been awarded grants towards installing renewable energy systems such as solar panels, wind turbines, wood-fired boilers and heat pumps,  in addition to improving their energy efficiency.  

As well as helping deliver the Scottish Government’s world-leading commitment to cut carbon emissions by 42% by 2020, thousands of people are benefitting from improved and warmer community buildings and more opportunities for local businesses specialising in the installation of renewable technologies.

Community Energy Scotland, the independent charity which runs the CARES scheme for the Scottish Government along with a separate scheme funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, is reporting that over 600 community renewable energy projects are currently being developed  across Scotland, from Galloway to North Yell in Shetland. 

CARES provides funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in community facilities. Hundreds of community centres are now benefitting from the scheme, which in turn means warmer, more useable and ‘lower carbon’ facilities for community groups across Scotland. 

Lochdar Community Hall in South Uist now has two 6kW wind turbines to provide direct heat to the hall. According to Ian Macdonald, chairman, the installation has had a big impact on the local community – “This system has made a huge difference to the community hall which had in the past suffered from dampness.  As well as providing a constant warm temperature for visitors, usage of the hall has increased as word spread of this transformation.  We were pleased that we got CARES funding for the installation and that it now allows greater use by our local community”. 

Lister Housing Co-operative installed solar water heating into tenement flats in central Edinburgh, reducing tenants’ bills for hot water. Alistair Cant, director of the Co-operative said “The beauty of these systems is that once fitted, they will go on generating year on year with minimal maintenance. CARES funding has helped greatly to make this happen and taking our tenants out of fuel poverty is a real priority for us.” 

Jim Mather MSP, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism is delighted with the progress under the scheme – and believes that it shows that renewable energy is leading to stronger and more resilient communities who are becoming much more informed about energy matters.

“The CARES scheme is unlocking real interest in Scottish communities who can see the potential for improving their facilities. Once people get going on a project, they typically then look for further opportunities to benefit their communities.  The Scottish Government raised its game by upping the funding for renewables with CARES significantly and I am delighted to see communities are putting it to good use.

Proposals are now coming forward from community groups for larger projects designed to bring in cash for community regeneration from the sale of renewable energy. I believe this trend will bring real local impact in ways that will benefit all in the community as we move to a low carbon future”.

 According to Community Energy Scotland there is a growing interest amongst community groups in going one step further from a project heating a community building to more complex projects such as developing a small hydro or wind turbine to bring an income. Nicholas Gubbins, Chief Executive of Community Energy Scotland, believes that CARES and the HIE scheme are having a ‘confidence-building’ effect – people are seeing that these project are possible –

“We’re currently advising 128 community groups on these larger projects, all seeking to bring revenue direct into their local community. Of the 20 projects which have already applied for planning, all 20 have successfully secured consent.  We are now working with the remaining groups to complete their planning applications.  

It’s extraordinary to see how groups strengthen as they take a project forward. I think people are really fired up by the promise of  generating and investing cash to benefit their community as a whole, reducing their carbon footprint, saving energy costs and saying ‘we did that’ …”

 Ann Kirkby from the Tiree Community Development Trust, who are just completing their single 900kW wind turbine project, shows exactly what this means. “The turbine stands as a remarkable statement of achievement and will help to turn around the fortunes of the island.  The turbine is expected to operate for more than 20 years, during which time it should earn in the region of £3.5 million net for the community.  Liz Lapsley, the Trust’s development officer, sees this to be the whole point of the project; “Once we have paid off the bank loan we will be earning over £250,000 a year for the community. We will set up a local grant scheme that can be used to invest in any social, cultural or economic good cause that the community wants to support.”    The project has also helped to kick start an interest in other renewable and energy saving projects, such as an electric community vehicle scheme currently being developed through Community Powerdown, a carbon-reduction initiative devised by Community Energy Scotland.

Once completed, CARES projects approved so far this year will save around 2,370 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, equivalent to the total emissions from 430 homes. 

For more information on CARES, visit  Individual householders can get help from the Energy Saving Scotland Scheme by visiting