By Tom Nockolds, Energy4All
22nd September 2020
Turning up the heat in support of community energy in Scotland
Earlier this month the Scottish Government released their annual “Program for Government” outlining their planned legislative programme for the coming parliamentary year. As well as setting out the legislative programme, the document also sets out the actions of the Government for the year and beyond.
“Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland” …this title, no doubt designed to encourage political support for the current Government, introduces the two main pillars of the Program: to protect Scots against the worst impacts of Covid-19, and to deliver an economic recovery led by environmental renewal.
While it would be a mistake to judge the Scottish Government on this plan - after all, actions speak louder than words - there is much to be optimistic in this report for those of us working to develop more community energy in Scotland. Achieving a fast transition to clean energy is the most urgent of work, but decarbonisation must also be done in a way that is just and fair. Community energy, ideally delivered through co-operatives, is one of the best ways to ensure this happens.
So let’s have a closer look at the Program through the lens of community energy and co-operatives.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created two key challenges for countries around the world: how can the people be protected from the ravages of this contagious and deadly virus, and how can the economy recover from the huge economic loss suffered because of the lockdown measures.
Thankfully, the Scottish Government has not abandoned pre-existing policy in favour of some new economic agenda that might perhaps abandon or weaken commitments to decarbonisation and environmental renewal. Quite the opposite: the urgent need for an economic recovery from Covid-19 has sharpened Government’s resolve to push forward with their Green New Deal agenda.
The highlights for us are, in order of planned funding: a £2 billion capitalisation of the Scottish National Investment Bank whose mandate is to support the transition to net zero; Investing £1.6 billion to decarbonise heating homes and buildings; Creating a £100 million Green Jobs fund to support green job creation, Providing £60 million to support decarbonising industrial and manufacturing sectors, and a £62 million Energy Transition Fund for oil affected businesses and the North East more generally, and; opening the next round of the £50 million Low Carbon Infrastructure Transformation Fund, this month.
Communities and community energy remain as darlings of the Government, rightly so, and harnessing their power will be further enhanced by the creation of a network of Climate Action Towns and separately a network of regional hubs to support communities in developing local net zero transition solutions.
There is undoubtedly a strong emphasis on decarbonising heat, with the Government keen to point to previous heat projects and new heat legislation, in addition to much of the announced future spend being heat specific or applicable to heat projects. Heating homes is one area to which the co-operative business approach is ideally suited. Communities of households who own and/or control their own heat source and the means for distributing that heat to themselves, all at a lower cost when compared with alternatives, have much to gain. Local jobs, increased spend in the local economy, reduced leaking of profit from the local economy, warmer and more efficient homes, will all contribute to community wealth building for those who successfully adopt a co-operative heating model in their community. This isn’t just over-enthusiastic optimism - we know this to be true, because this has already played out with heat co-operatives in places like Denmark.
Energy4All already has one operating heat co-operative in our club - Springbok Wood Heat in Surrey - and we are actively working on heat projects, including several in Scotland. The Scottish Government Program gives confidence that expanding into heat will involve manageable risk and solid financial return for our energy co-operatives in Scotland.
The Program for Government is, as mentioned already, just words on a page and we should reserve judgement until these words are converted into real action. We hope to see this plan unfold into real action and expanded support for community energy co-operatives. The time is right to turn up the heat on community energy in Scotland.
If your community has an idea for energy for your community - heat or otherwise - we encourage you to contact our team to discuss why co-operatives are a perfect fit for achieving a better outcome for your community. We support the work of Local Energy Scotland by helping communities access the CARES program where communities can access advice, expertise, grants and other funding support. Visit localenergy.scot for more information. To contact the Energy4All team send an email to email@example.com.