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October 21, 2015

An opportunity missed?

As the UK Government veers away from any further support for the renewable energy sector, the halcyon days of Scottish Government setting targets of 500mw of installed capacity under community ownership seem a very distant memory. The recent announcement that this 500mw target had been reached should have been an important milestone for our sector. But a little digging into the numbers reveals that only a disappointing 12% is actually owned by communities – the vast majority being owned by local developers, farmers and landowners. Locally owned perhaps, but not by the community. There’s a difference.


 Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie said there must be a greater emphasis on local ownership and generation of renewables as a means of combatting climate change.

He spoke as the Scottish Government announced it has reached its 500 megawatts (MW) target of community and locally-owned energy five years early with a total generating capacity of 508MW renewable energy now installed.

A major environmental group welcomed the announcement, but Harvie said it represents only a “drop in the ocean”.

The MSP said it represents only three per cent of renewables ownership in Scotland and includes small private ownership. By contrast Germany has 65 per cent in local or community hands.

Harvie said: “Scottish Greens have consistently pushed for community and public ownership of energy assets so the profits can be used to fund the transition our local economies need. What ministers are trumpeting is a drop in the ocean compared with what we could have.

“We could be copying Germany’s Energiewende programme of switching to renewables and reducing demand through widespread local ownership. Giving communities and public bodies control not only creates jobs and cuts bills but provides revenue to invest in other priorities.

“The barriers and challenges faced by local ownership and community ownership are different and require specific support. It’s a huge opportunity and ministers need to go much further and much faster on this or Scotland will continue to be left behind.”

Anne Schiffer, energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “We wish to congratulate the Scottish Government and those communities involved who have made this happen.

“With the UK government’s sustained and ideological attack on renewable energy, this announcement is fantastic news.

“What is important now is that we see this as a starting point of a citizen-led renewables transformation not the end. Scotland must continue to lead the way to an energy future that benefits both people and the planet.

“To ensure even more communities benefit across the country, we urge the Scottish Government to double the 2020 target to 1000MW as well as set an ambitious target of 2000MW for 2030.

“Community ownership has been instrumental in achieving broader public acceptance of renewables and is vital in helping reach the Scottish Government’s 100% renewable energy target for electricity demand by 2020. Community energy helps tackle climate change and enables communities to use local natural resources to create jobs and strengthen local economies.

“Climate change means that we have to transform our energy systems from dirty fossil fuels to renewables. Community energy allows us to put people at the heart of that change.”