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January 28, 2020

Manage your money well

When the concept of community-owned renewable energy first appeared, many thought that the days of grant dependency were over. The potential income of these schemes was eye-watering. However, the reality has proved somewhat different and while some communities have had the capacity and the wind resource to make it happen, many haven’t. That said, those communities who just happened to be adjacent to private wind farm developments have been in receipt of some fairly hefty sums too – via community benefit payments. A new resource just published is designed to help communities manage their unexpected and new-found wealth.

Foundation Scotland

A Toolkit has been launched aimed at helping communities who are seeking, or are set to receive, ‘community benefits’ from renewable energy projects.

The new resource provides guidance to communities looking to secure, set up and deliver community benefits. It is made up of six separate but linked modules offering advice for each stage of the community benefit ‘journey’. The aim is to help communities plan for community benefits in a way that brings about real impact based on the community’s own priorities, and to help them manage community benefits in an accountable way.

Community benefits are a voluntary yet commonplace offer from developers of renewable energy projects who wish to put something back into communities. They often include an annual fund, though other benefits may also be provided. The searchable Register of Community Benefits in Scotland, hosted by Local Energy Scotland, showed that at January 2020 nearly £19million in community benefits were paid out by the owners of 284 renewable energy projects across Scotland over the previous year.

Local Energy Scotland has produced the toolkit on behalf of The Scottish Government, as part of their Communities and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) programme. It was written by community benefit experts Foundation Scotland and builds on the Scottish Government’s Good Practice Principles for Renewable Energy Developments.

Ken Johnstone, Community Councillor for Girvan & District, an area that has received several community benefit packages linked to renewable energy projects, said: “It is always a daunting task to respond to community benefit opportunities. There are always many issues to consider, a lack of experienced help, and time constraints with a looming deadline. This Toolkit will be a valuable resource and help for anyone in a community to engage with the process for the first time, or even for communities more experienced with community benefit, to improve their arrangements.”

Chris Morris, Local Energy Scotland Manager, said: “We know that community benefits make a real and transformational difference to communities, but we appreciate it can be hard to know where to start if groups are thinking of taking advantage of them. That’s why we developed the community benefits toolkit in partnership with Foundation Scotland. It’s designed to make it easier for communities to secure, set up and manage funds and wider packages of community benefits from renewable energy schemes. It’s a great addition to the package of support that we can offer communities through the CARES.”

Rachel Searle, Foundation Scotland’s Head of Communities, said: “Community benefits represent a huge opportunity for communities, enabling them to plan for and meet their own priorities. However, managing these resources in a way that is both accountable and brings maximum impact locally can also be a challenge. Securing a benefit package, putting in place the right governance and administration structures, and ensuring they can measure and report back on what has been achieved with community benefit are just some examples. The Toolkit provides advice and examples of good practice, from those who have been there and done it, so that communities who are new to this don’t have to re-invent the wheel. It may also be of interest to communities who are already receiving community benefits”.

This latest publication is one of several toolkits offered by Local Energy Scotland. Others in the series are aimed at communities looking to build their own renewable energy projects, and cover Technology Options, Business Planning, Setting up an Organisation and Project Development.

Interested communities can download the Community Benefit Toolkit at