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Highland Council announce plans for strategic fund so benefits of renewable energy are ‘equitable’

By Rachel Smart

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Raymond Bremner, Leader of the Highland Council. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Raymond Bremner, Leader of the Highland Council. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Highland Council leader Raymond Bremner has announced plans for a Strategic Partnership Fund so Highland communities can benefit ‘equitably’ from the region’s renewable energy resources.

Speaking at the Highlands and Islands Green Energy Conference at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness, Councillor Bremner provided the keynote speech to industry leaders about the growth of renewable energy projects in the area over the last two years.

He then addressed the need for the whole of the Highlands to benefit from the resources and set out the proposal for the Strategic Partnership Fund that would provide a ‘legacy for generations’.

He said that this would help to secure affordable and sustainable housing for communities and ensure shared ownership models for renewable energy projects so can communities can directly benefit.

He said: “While community funds have been doing create work and the £5000 per megawatt are invaluable to the communities already benefitting, we have to make sure that support is more equitable to deliver a just transition for everyone.

“We need to think creatively and inclusively about how we distribute the benefits of our energy resources – we have so much of it in the Highlands.

“Existing commitments to community benefits must remain but we need to develop a regional fund. We need to give our communities more control and more options.

“This is about empowering local voices and ensuring that every community can share in the prosperity generated by our renewable energy projects and the renewable energy projects that they see all around them.

“We propose setting up a strategic fund partnership, comprising public agencies, industry representatives and community partners to steer our investments in the right direction.

“The partnership will ensure that our investments are strategic and are aligned with long-term needs of communities.

“To bring this to life, there are several clear goals: To establish a strategic fund partnership to oversee the central fund; to create financial models for housing investments to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, sustainable housing; identify the opportunities to enhance the Highland investment plan; and to promote integrated shared ownership models for renewable energy projects, ensuring that community projects can share directly themselves from this.”

He also added that he hoped to lead local area energy planning with SSE to ensure energy planning is holistic and inclusive and to develop a sustainable workforce through the employer charter focusing on education on reskilling and local talent development.

Highland Council wants the socio-economic benefits aligned with strategic community priorities to ensure investments address the most pressing needs of communities and to update and enforce community benefit policy to ensure the benefits of energy projects are distributed equitably and to review them often to view that they are working.

He added: “This is about creating a legacy of sustainability, prosperity and resilience for future generations. Together we can still achieve very extraordinary things.”

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