You may have heard the estimates before. Scotland has 25% of the total capacity for wind and tidal power in the EU and 10% of its potential wave power. The potential is staggering. But the path that leads towards the successful delivery of the projects needed to deliver this potential is paved with regulations, the competing interests of stakeholders and a lack of capital.
But this is no longer the problem that it once was.
Scotland is facing an incredibly exciting time with no less than one quarter of the energy we consume coming directly from the renewable sector. At this morning’s Green Breakfast Seminar, MBM brought together three speakers from different organisations who are each working on different parts of the solution which will help to bring life into such projects in order to realise some of the untapped potential in this country for energy generation.
Stephen Westwood, Chief Executive ofSustainable Heat & Power Limited (SHPL) spoke first to explain how his organisation in effect acts as a matchmaker between landowners and investors to deliver renewable energy projects. By assembling a collection of experienced parties, the business helps projects to get off the ground, guides them through the feasibility, technical and engineering stage, then through the planning and environmental process and ultimately provides the introductions to the private investors who are fundamental to ensure that the projects are viable.
By bringing in private investors who themselves benefit from the tax breaks of EIS and Seed EIS, SHPL can then focus on helping to breathe life into proven technologies, such as small-scale hydro, onshore wind turbines and anaerobic digestion.
Suddenly, the lower-end of the renewables market, which has attracted little of the investment capital which has traditionally funded larger projects - and, in any event, been missing north of the border - becomes viable, as a new model is created which has the potential to generate significant returns for all involved.
And it’s not all about the investors. The landowners themselves benefit significantly - even if they choose to adopt a passive approach. There’s an opportunity for the landowner who is involved in each project to share in the income stream generated moving forwards. Indeed, asthe Scottish farming and ice-cream entrepreneur Maitland Mackie so elegantly stated last week, every ‘swish’ of the wind turbine on your land represents another 10p in the bank!
Now, I have to disclose an interest here as MBM is a founding partner of SHPL. But we are convinced that SHPL really do appear to bring together a number of opportunities to create the win-win-win outcome that is required for investors, landowners and government/the public. SHPL have the expertise to take projects from the inception phase to working operation – a one-stop shop!
Next up was Phillip Bruner of Sustainable Community Energy Network (SCENE) who spoke about the great work being carried out by the social business, based up at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation in engaging communities with investors in order to create sustainable energy projects. SCENE is exploring the financing mechanisms tailored for community co-ownership of their own renewable energy facilities. Phillip also encouraged us all to make our views known on the Community Renewable and Empowerment Bill 2012 which is designed to strengthen community participation, unlock enterprising community development and renew our communities.
Joe Noble of ESEP spoke next about where some of the matched funding for these projects is coming from via the SPRUCE/JESSICA funding. I’ll not go into great detail about the funding itself other than to point out a key issue: £48 million in cash has to be legally committed by December 2015. So there is pressure to invest this money - what an opportunity!
So, what are the takeaways from this morning? Three in particular, it seems to me:
- There is greater potential for more projects to be set up than ever before. There are organisations out there which will make the whole process easier.
- The window will not remain open forever - there is an expiry date on when money must be invested and ultimately, a political backdrop to the availability of both public funds and tax breaks.
- Thirdly, 'community' itself is developing. Whilst people may bemoan the decline of community spirit, what we are experiencing in reality is the rapid exchange of information and ability for new networks to facilitate projects more efficiently and effectively than ever before.
I think you’ll agree that it’s an exciting time for us all, in whichever capacity we find ourselves - landowner, investor or general member of the public. The need for a growth in renewable energy sources is indisputable - and there is a great opportunity for all of us in ensuring that it is actually delivered.
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