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Council Looks To Maximise Energy Community Benefits

26th February 2011

Enhancing benefits from renewable energy developments

A working group set up by The Highland Council to identify the most effective way of maximising benefits to communities from renewable energy developments is recommending changes that could not only increase the level of pay outs by developers but see the benefits more widely spread throughout the Highlands.

In reporting back to the full council after five meetings, the Community Benefit Working Group says the guiding principle should remain that local communities accommodating developments should continue to benefit most. Any change in the Council's approach to community benefit should not be retrospective and should apply only to those negotiations that begin following on from the adoption by the Council of any new policy.

For onshore developments, the Group is recommending that the Council adopt a three tier approach to community benefit. This would be on the basis of a floor level of 100,000 per year whereby all benefit will accrue at a local level. Thereafter any benefit above 100,000 per year would accrue on the basis of 55% local, 30% at a locality level and 15% at a Pan-Highland level.

For offshore renewable energy developments, the Group is recommending the Council adopt a two tier approach, generally on the basis of 80% per year accruing to a Pan-Highland Fund and 20% accruing to coastal communities, all taking into account possible sharing of benefit with other authority areas. The split reflects a more widespread impact on onshore communities.

The Group says the level of payments paid by developers should be increased to 5,000 per megawatt of installed capacity. All payments should be index linked. The Council should seek to enter into agreements with developers in advance and then seek to become involved in individual negotiations on behalf of communities. It will always be open to some communities to strike their own deals.

Councillor Isobel McCallum, who chairs the Working Group, said: "The Working Group has given this issue a great deal of consideration and we feel we have produced a range of recommendations that will provide the Council and our communities with a really positive way forward.

"Through our overview of deals that have already been negotiated at a local level, we believe we can negotiate a better deal with developers and not only maintain benefits to local communities but extend these benefits to a wider spread of communities."

The full list of recommendations, to be considered by the Council on Thursday 3 March, are as follows: -

a) That any change in the Council's approach to community benefit will not be retrospective and will apply only to those negotiations that begin following on from the adoption by the Council of any new policy and guidance.

b) That the Council invite the Crown Estate to set out its position on offshore renewables, in particular, those in the Pentland and Moray Firths.

c) That the Council invite developers and other appropriate bodies to make clear to the Council their position on renewable energy developments and their involvement in community benefit.

d) That the Council update its web based guidance and policy in relation to renewable energy and community benefit following on from the Council's adoption of a new policy and guidance.

e) That the Council host a series of workshops for communities and other interested parties in relation to community benefit at early dates.

f) That an annual report on community benefit and associated issues be presented to Council.

g) That the Council agree that it will seek to encourage community benefit as appropriate from procurement exercises and other appropriate developments.

h) That the Council adopt a three tier approach to community benefit deriving from onshore renewable energy and other appropriate developments. This to be on the basis of a floor level of 100,000 per annum whereby all benefit will accrue at a local level. Thereafter any benefit above 100,000 per year would accrue on the basis of 55% local, 30% at a locality level and 15% at a Pan-Highland level. This arrangement would not be cumulative - that is it will apply on an individual development basis only.

i) That the Council adopt a two tier approach to the allocation of funds from offshore renewable energy developments generally on the basis of 80% accruing to Pan-Highland Fund and 20% accruing to coastal communities, all taking into account possible sharing of benefit with other authority areas.

j) That the post of Planning Gain Negotiator also take on the negotiation of Community Benefit in accordance with the final policy and guidance approved by the Council.

k) That the Community Benefit Working Group continues in existence, with a broadened remit to cover all matters related to Community Benefit and associated matters such as developments in renewable energy generally and the involvement of the Council and communities in taking forward renewable energy projects at their own hands.

l) That the Council instruct officers to bring forward a report setting out options for the management of community benefit funds.

m) That the arrangements for offshore community benefit be implemented following formal approval of a new policy and guidance by the Council.

n) That if the recommendations are approved, that officers draw up formal policy and guidance for approval and adoption at a future meeting of the Council.

 

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