Participants gathered for the final presentation of the week to hear Richard Lochhead’s talk titled, Renewable Energy: The Benefits for Communities and the Role of Community Energy in Delivering the Scottish Government’s Objectives.
Richard Lochhead is Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for the Moray constituency and is currently Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment.
Energy policy is a central part of both Scotland’s response to climate change and the Scottish Government’s overarching purpose of achieving sustainable economic growth. The Scottish Government has sent a clear signal about the scale of its renewable energy ambitions by substantially increasing the target for the generation of electricity from renewable sources to 50% by 2020. Renewable energy is not just about big business, it’s also about communities taking forward their own projects to fit with their own needs. A number of Scottish communities, including Findhorn, are leading the way in demonstrating the benefits that community energy projects can offer locally as well as helping us achieve a greener, wealthier and fairer Scotland.
Following is a transcript of Richard’s talk. The biggest round of applause came when Richard reaffirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to driving forward a non-nuclear energy strategy (see item 44).
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment
Findhorn Foundation Conference 28 March 2008
Creative Community Responses to Peak Oil and Climate Change
The Scottish Government Perspective
1. I’d like to begin by thanking the Findhorn Foundation for organising this conference and for inviting me to take part.
2. I am delighted that Findhorn is hosting this important event and continues to provide inspiration and valuable lessons for sustainable living.
3. Today I would like to describe the Scottish policy context of some of the themes which have been discussed at the conference this week.
4. In particular I want to outline the benefits for communities of getting involved in energy projects and how communities can help us deliver the Scottish Government’s strategic objectives.
5. I will talk about the support which is currently available and consider how we can empower our communities to have more control over the things that are important to them.
6. And I will reflect on the need to build on the many examples of innovative action already being taken by communities across Scotland to reduce their impact on the environment.
Scottish Government’s Purpose and Strategic Objectives
7. The overarching priority of the Scottish Government is faster and more sustainable economic growth. We take pride in being the first Government to bring sustainable economic growth to the heart of the national agenda.
8. Stemming from this purpose we have a number of strategic objectives. These are the priorities of making Scotland a wealthier, fairer, healthier and greener place to live. Our Greener Scotland objective focuses on managing and making the best use of our natural resources and environmental assets. It also means recognising that Scotland, like other developed countries across the world, is living beyond its environmental means. We need to move more to one planet, rather than three-planet, living.
9. That is why our pursuit of economic growth goes hand in hand with our environmental ambitions.
10. The Scottish Government is committed to delivering a Greener Scotland for everyone to enjoy. As part of this, we are determined that Scotland will play its part in rising to the global challenge of climate change.
11. In order to strengthen Scotland’s contribution towards a more sustainable future we are consulting on proposals for a Scottish Climate Change Bill. This includes proposals for a statutory target to achieve an 80% reduction in Scottish emissions by 2050.
12. This is an ambitious target. We are under no illusions about the level, breadth and depth of action that is required. Illustrated by the huge number of responses already received. It is a huge challenge and will require a contribution from all sectors of the Scottish economy and Scottish society. The Scottish Government is showing leadership but we understand that we will only be successful if we work together and secure a participation from all including the public sector, business, communities and individuals.
13. The implications of climate change for Scotland are significant. Future climate scenarios suggest that during the 21st century our climate will become wetter and stormier. Scotland’s communities are already in the front line in terms of responding to the impacts of our changing climate. Communities also have a critical role to play in helping to deliver emissions reductions.
Climate Change Fund
14. So today I am delighted to tell you that very shortly I’ll be announcing details of a new Climate Challenge Fund designed to help communities take action in support of Scotland’s climate change ambitions.
15. As set out in our budget over ꌗ million will be available over the next 3 years to support communities across the country, allowing them to develop and deliver actions that will significantly reduce carbon emissions.
16. Communities will have the opportunity to devise their own measures, appropriate to them. And this could be a range of community groups, perhaps with support of the voluntary sector or local government partners. This fund will be about enabling communities to prevent or reduce emissions – in keeping with the Scottish Climate Change Bill’s ambitions.
17. We are developing guidance and working with a wide range of third sector and agency partners to establish the support framework that will help communities develop their plans, take those plans through to action and measure their success. I want to see communities throughout Scotland take part.
18. Of course the fund will need to work alongside other local and national grant schemes to maximise the effectiveness of the total funding package available, and we will work to ensure that processes are transparent, easily understandable and accessible to communities.
19. Working together we can deliver so much more – the cumulative impact of community action can make a real difference – not only to our emissions reduction target – and by acting as exemplars these communities can help drive the long term change of attitude and behaviour that is needed to move Scotland towards a Greener, more sustainable future.
20. I believe this initiative is an exciting opportunity to make a significant contribution to Scottish action on climate change and would like to thank colleagues in the Green Party for their support and input as we sought to identify funds through the budget process and as we take this forward. Illustrates how we can work successfully across parties in a minority government context.
21. I am aware that there are already a number of valuable and inspiring examples of Scottish communities taking action on climate change. For example I was delighted recently to congratulate Biggar on achieving transition town status. They join a growing list of towns across the UK, and follow in the footsteps of Portobello and Dunbar in the Transition Network which links communities who are taking steps to respond to the challenges of climate change and the shift to a low-carbon economy.
22. And the Findhorn community itself, as many of you will know, is a renowned exemplar of sustainable practice, and can with some justification claim to have the lowest ecological footprint of any community in the UK, perhaps in Europe. The lifestyle choices adopted here in relation to food, housing, travel and consumables are a lesson to us all.
23. The Government is keen to build on this work through the Fund, encouraging groups to share best practice, identify opportunities and challenge each other to do more. We will therefore be supporting a number of existing projects like these to help them develop further and to act as exemplars and demonstration projects for other communities.
24. I look forward to publishing more detail on this exciting new community Climate Challenge Fund in more detail in the coming weeks. We will be working closely with partners including NGOs and setting up an expert body to help us administer the fund.
25. To underpin these specific measures we are supporting and promoting the introduction of a system of cross-compliance across the public sector, and engrained in the concordat approach with local authorities, to ensure that spending decisions across the range of key portfolios, including waste, energy, climate change, planning and housing use available techniques to assess the carbon impact of policy options during the appraisal process.
26. Scotland must also adapt to the anticipated changes if it is to minimise the impacts of costly disruptions and safeguard the continued smooth functioning of services and infrastructure.
27. So we are developing a Scottish adaptation strategy which will identify priority adaptation action required in Scotland and clarify roles and responsibilities in achieving this action. Consultation on this strategy will take place during 2008.
Scottish Government approach to Community Empowerment
28. As a Government we believe that too much power in Scotland has been drawn up to the national level over the last few years. We are determined to change that and to put power back where it belongs – nearer to the Scottish people.
29. This starts with making sure that Local Councils are given their right and proper place. They are democratically accountable. They are the tier of Government closest to communities on a day to day basis. And we are in the process of developing a new and more mature relationship with Local Government based on trust and mutual respect.
30. But community empowerment is also key for this Government. Its not jargon for us – it’s a real thing. We believe in the benefits of local communities having more direct control and influence over the things that affect them. You know that there is a long and proud tradition in rural areas of communities getting on and doing things for themselves.
31. To support community empowerment the Scottish Government must play a strategic role. Working closely with COSLA, we must provide National leadership.
32. In this context, I am personally determined that we make it easier than it has ever been before for communities to understand and get hold of the various Scottish Government resources that support community empowerment.
33. I and my colleague Stewart Maxwell have asked officials from across Government to put themselves in your shoes. We have asked them report to us on how we can simplify things to help you.
34. So empowering communities is not about jargon – it’s about real and practical change for the better.
Sustainability Development Research Centre
35. A lot of good work is being done on sustainability issues by a number of organisations in Scotland, including the Sustainable Development Research Centre, located close by in Forres.
36. That is why I was very interested to visit them on 29 February, to learn about what they do and what their plans were to develop the Centre.
37. They informed me of the research and practical projects they had undertaken to demonstrate the benefits that caring for the environment is good for business.
38. I was interested to learn of the support they give to individuals, communities, businesses and other organisations to create a more sustainable culture that encourages the evolution and widespread adoption of thinking and practices that are economically competitive, environmentally sound and socially responsible.
39. They told me of their ambitious plans to develop a “Scottish” or “National” Sustainable Development Centre – to be based on a Hub and Spoke model creating a network for Sustainable Development research, with the Hub located in Forres.
40. This proposal will bring together a range of academic partners from various leading educational institutions around Scotland, and I wish them well for the future.
41. Energy policy is a central part of both Scotland’s response to climate change and the Scottish Government’s strategy for sustainable economic growth.
42. The Scottish Government is committed to a coherent approach to energy policy, recognising that promoting reduced energy consumption and promoting low carbon technologies are key to achieving sustainable economic growth.
43. There are a number of principles at the heart of our energy strategy for Scotland;
• a commitment to reduce carbon emissions and so tackle climate change;
• a determination to enhance security of supply by fostering a vibrant, diverse and competitive energy sector rooted in Scotland;
• and a resolve to deliver energy at a price that is affordable to consumers both domestic and business.
44. The Scottish Government is committed to driving forward a diverse and balanced non-nuclear energy strategy which will ensure security of supply in Scotland and help meet our climate change responsibilities.
45. We recognise that the UK Continental Shelf is maturing, with oil supplies having reached their peak production in 2006, and that we are now in a declining market. We estimate that reserves in the North Sea will be able to sustain demand in the UK for many years to come. However, we know that a significant shift must take place towards low carbon forms of energy.
46. Scotland has a powerful comparative advantage in sources of clean, green energy. At the top of our energy agenda is a commitment to make the most of Scotland’s vast renewables potential.
47. With a potential renewable resource of more than 60 GigaWatts we have more than enough to meet our peak electricity demand many times over.
48. We have introduced a target to provide 50% of Scottish electricity demand from renewables by 2020. We have also introduced an interim milestone of 31% to be achieved by 2011 – which we estimate to be equivalent to 5,000 MegaWatts of installed capacity. This is twice as much as we had when we reached a significant milestone last year – the point at which installed capacity from renewables in Scotland exceeded that of nuclear.
49. These targets send a clear signal to industry, to the whole country and to Europe about the scale of our renewables ambitions.
50. There are a number of tremendous projects already in place or in progress;
• The European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney provides a world class testing facility for the technologies which will play a vital part in our energy future.
• There is Talisman and Scottish and Southern Energy’s deep water offshore wind project in the Moray Firth.
• The world’s first community-owned renewable hydrogen project, in Scotland’s most northerly island (Unst).
• And the First Minister recently opened the UK’s largest dedicated biomass energy plant – E.ON UK’s development at Steven’s Croft near Lockerbie.
51. These projects – any many others I could mention – highlight the diverse range of technologies that the Scottish Government is committed to supporting.
52. We are also looking beyond electricity. More energy is used for heating and hot water in Scotland than transport and electricity combined. Annual heat use is estimated to be over 50% of total energy demand in Scotland. If we are to reduce carbon emissions we must address heat use.
53. That will be done in a number of ways – including Combined Heat & Power and capturing waste heat from industrial processes. But renewable heat is massively under utilised. Current renewable heat penetration levels in Scotland are only around 2%.
54. Around a quarter of Scotland’s homes are not connected to the gas grid, and in these areas in particular, renewable heat can offer a viable alternative.
55. So we have an opportunity to lead the UK in building a commercially viable, diverse, renewable heat industry. Developing a vibrant renewable heat market will contribute to sustainable economic growth while cutting carbon emissions and tackling climate change.
56. A recently published report on Renewable Heat from our Forum for Renewable Energy identities the challenges we face in fulfilling Scotland’s potential. We are carefully considering the reports recommendations and will take them into account in publishing a Renewable Energy Action Plan this year.
57. I know you will be interested to learn that one of the actions we are taking forward is to learn from best practice on the application of renewable heat elsewhere in Europe. This Scottish Government is not afraid to learn valuable lessons from elsewhere.
58. We know that to fulfil Scotland’s renewables potential we need to meet a number of issues head on. And that is what where our focus lies. Establishing a framework for a successful, diverse and world class renewable energy sector in Scotland.
59. This includes;
• delivering quicker decisions on applications for renewables projects through the planning and consenting systems
• ending the unfair and discriminatory transmission charging regime – which disadvantages more remote parts of Scotland, where the potential resource is greatest
• working towards a more flexible approach to access to the grid
• and exploring the potential for offshore grid connections.
60. We have a real opportunity to become a global leader in the development of renewable energy technologies, and to establish Scotland as the green energy capital of Europe.
61. Scotland’s resource, level of expertise, and a powerful shared commitment between Government, industry and our universities, means that Scotland can play a prominent role in the research and development of new clean energy technology.
62. Therefore we are working towards the establishment of a Scottish European Green Energy Centre. I am pleased that the European Commission has signalled its support and encouragement for our proposal, and that Scottish companies are keen to give the project their full support.
Smaller scale and community energy
63. Our energy policy is not just about large scale projects and big business. As we made clear in our manifesto last year, we want to involve communities more in renewable energy decisions. A Scottish energy revolution has the greatest chance of success if it comes from the bottom up rather than just being imposed from the top down.
64. Another important part of our Greener Scotland objective is developing a cohesive and co-operative society, where protecting the environment is seen as being in the national and global interests. It also means supporting sustainable places – cleaner, greener places where people want to live and work and where there is co-operation to achieve common goals.
65. As well as helping us achieve the environmental and economic objectives I have outlined, the move towards more sustainable energy sources presents opportunities to create more vibrant communities, which can benefit by saving on energy costs and securing. long-term income streams. Community energy can contribute to these aims.
66. There are various models for community ownership. From those projects owned wholly by a community group, such as in Findhorn to the joint venture proposed in Shetland (by Viking Energy). Of course, each model has its own risks and its own opportunities.
Microgeneration and community involvement
67. Our Renewable Heat Action Plan will make clear the key role of strong commercial companies. But it will also reflect the role we see for community, household and wider business engagement in this renewable energy project.
68. Micro-generation engages young and old alike in the broader objective of sustainable development and emissions reduction. We will support micro-generation not just for its carbon benefits but for this wider purpose. And in doing so we can support security of supply, address fuel poverty and bring economic benefit.
70. This Government wants to ensure the right support is in place to make it easier for individuals to generate their own energy. That is why, in our Budget for Scotland, we pledged to triple funding to support community and microgeneration. Up to ꌓ.5 million will be available, each year, over the next three years.
71. The message we have received over the last year is that people don’t know where to go for information and advice. That there is no obvious source of trusted and independent advice to help people to choose the technology that’s right for them.
72. So from April this year, we are launching a new ‘one-stop shop’ network of advice centres for consumers. This will cover all their needs for sustainable energy advice. It will build on the energy efficiency advice already available and cover micro-generation and transport use too.
73. During the Autumn, we will be rolling out a new ‘Home Help’ service through the network. This will provide more intensive support to help households make the right choices about microgeneration. Advisors will go to individual homes and help with surveys, planning applications and hand holding support through to installation and beyond.
74. This is a step change in the way we engage and incentivise the people of Scotland to take action.
75. Of course we know the up front costs continue to be a barrier for many – that is why we are allocating additional funding to grant support for householders. From £1.4m in 2006/07 to £3.5m in next year.
76. Many of our small businesses are of a scale where they too can benefit from using micro-generation. But to date, support for SMEs to invest in microgeneration has been virtually non-existent. Advice and information is patchy and there is currently no financial support mechanism. We are therefore boosting small business advice, which has to date focused on energy efficiency to include micro-generation. And we are investing a further £2 million in our successful energy efficiency loan scheme to allow support for installation of micro-generation.
77. Our focus is not just on individual households and businesses but on communities too. We want communities to benefit directly from the development of renewable energy. It also helps to engage people in the agenda of sustainable economic growth.
78. We have looked at models for community benefits from renewables elsewhere – particularly in Denmark. Again, we can learn from best practice amongst our European neighbours.
79. we will strengthen this support by producing independent tools and guidance- including case studies – that will help communities to gain maximum benefit from renewables projects. This will complement the support from the Climate Change Fund I referred to earlier.
80. I believe that there is so much more a community can gain from renewable projects, over and above financial benefits. These projects can help foster community cohesion, confidence, and skills development, as well as supporting local economic regeneration. Our support needs to reflect this.
81. That’s why, over this next year, we will refocus grant support for community projects towards those projects which encourage direct community engagement.
82. At the same time we will expect capital programmes for education and social housing to plan renewables into their investment- rather than see renewable energy as an add on which some will do if grant support is available . We want to change the culture and the mindset. Our grant programme will therefore focus on support outside these areas- for supply to the local community and where projects will promote direct local engagement.
83. We want to harness the potential of locally produced renewable heat – especially in off gas grid areas..
84. But we are not forgetting the role which schools can play in educating our children on the issues of climate change. By sowing the seeds at an early age, we can grow our future citizens into a responsible, energy and climate change aware population.
85. We want to see renewable technologies in every school in Scotland. A number of schools are reaping the benefits already. We will fund a Schools Development Officer to spread these benefits much more widely.
87. We want to win the hearts and minds of our children, therefore we will join up with education initiatives in the curriculum and through Ecoshools and Careers Scotland. As our children are learning about energy and climate change – they will be seeing it in action.
88. So in summation, our Climate Change Fund will help communities to take action on climate change. And in the meantime, we will provide;
• Better advice on micro-generation for householders and small businesses
• Increased grant support for householders for installing micro-generation
• Loan funding for small businesses for installing micro-generation
• Guidance for communities on getting involved in renewable energy projects
• Increased grant support for community projects
Photographer: Sverre Koxvold