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Politics / Lib Dems call for enhanced community benefit payments from onshore wind farms

The party also wants to see these payments become mandatory

THE SCOTTISH Liberal Democrats have put forward proposals that could lead to significantly increased community benefit payments for wind farm developments.

The party’s spring conference in Dundee at the weekend called on the Scottish Government to implement new guidance that would see developers pay five per cent of the gross revenue of new onshore wind farm developments into community benefit funds.

Currently developers are expected to pay £5,000 per installed megawatt towards community benefit annually.

In Shetland, SSE Renewables has agreed to pay just over £2.2 million per year (443MW x £5,000) into a community benefit fund.

Under the Lib Dems plans this amount could have been much higher as it would have been linked to the fluctuating wholesale electricity price which last summer stood at £363 per megawatt hour (mwh).

The party has a strong presence in the Northern Isles, but Scotland-wide its influence is somewhat limited with just four MSPs out of a total of 129 members of the Scottish Parliament.

The party also called for the UK Government to enshrine community benefit rights in law, to ensure that communities have a statutory right to benefit from local renewable energy development.

Councillor Angus MacDonald, the party’s candidate for the Ross, Skye and Lochaber at the next general election, said local communities were losing out because, up to now, any benefit payment has been voluntary.

“Over the past decade, the wholesale price of electricity has soared but benefits for the communities have not, with little of that windfall actually trickling down to those who have the downside of living near wind farms,” he said.

“What a difference it would make to our communities in the Borders or Highlands if they had their own equivalent of the Norwegian Petroleum Fund.

“With this money community leaders could give locals substantial financial help with fuel bills, they could build affordable homes, they could fund things like their local swimming pools, playgrounds and community halls.”

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Northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael said: “The idea that renewable projects in our communities should bring a direct benefit to those communities should not be a controversial one.

“The best way to reach successful outcomes for energy projects has to be to bring the community onside. If the Scottish Government has any sense then they should follow the Liberal Democrat lead and bring in similar rules.”

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart added: “It is only fair that communities who face disruption from renewables projects should benefit from what is generated on their doorstep.

“Shetland’s high fuel poverty levels could be addressed by any money coming back to the community, from such a proposal, and used to insulate homes, cutting energy costs and bills.”

The party said under its proposal community benefit for a newly constructed wind farm with 12 2.3MW turbines would rise from £138,000 to £670,000 per year.

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