two white wind turbines
Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Today the Scottish Co-operative Party launch our new paper on Scotland’s Green Energy Future. The new paper aims to provide a blueprint on how a Scottish Labour & Co-operative Government can work towards net zero while transforming the energy system.

The transition to decarbonisation will not be easy. It will require a seismic shift in our economy and society to achieve net zero. In Scotland, this will mean a long-term move away from the extraction and usage of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

We believe community energy provides the best opportunity to reimagine our energy system – putting communities in control of their energy generation and usage.

Community ownership of renewable energy projects is the foundation of community energy. Projects vary from community ownership of renewable energy installations to retrofitting projects to boost energy efficiency and reduce energy wastage. All community energy projects are co-operatively owned by members – providing all with a democratic stake in their community energy project.

Community energy initiatives have already sprung up across Scotland – in both urban and rural areas. Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative (ECSC) is an example of an urban project which installs solar panels on council owned properties across the capital. The money raised by the energy generated goes to the local community investors and to a fund which benefits local community projects. Apple Juice Community Hydro is a rural community energy project based in Applecross in the Highlands, which uses hydro power from the local burn (river). Revenue from the hydro project will be spent on community benefit schemes in Applecross.

The benefits of community energy are already being felt in communities across Scotland, with an Aquaterra report finding community energy projects deliver 34 times the community benefit of commercial or privately-owned renewable energy schemes. To deliver the transformative change required to achieve net zero and create a new energy system, we will need a new support and funding structure for community energy.

To deliver growth, Co-operative Development Scotland will need to have greater resources and funding to grow the community energy sector across Scotland – with ringfenced funding for a programme of co-operative growth.

Funding is essential to facilitating new community energy schemes. The main funding programme, the Community & Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) should be doubled in size and a new funding stream should be created within the Scottish National Investment Bank.

Planning should also be reformed to encourage the development of community energy. By fast tracking planning applications and waiving planning fees, a new Scottish Labour & Co-operative Government could increase the rate of growth of the sector. A new energy procurement strategy would further enhance growth and provide certainty to new community energy projects, by making commitments to purchase energy from them at a fixed price to power central and local authority buildings.

Community energy can be Scotland’s green energy future. With the right support, the sector can create a new generation of community energy owners – while expanding renewable energy generation. A new Scottish Labour & Co-operative Government should seize the opportunities of the net zero pledge to create a green economy which puts community energy at its heart.