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Planning Key To Unlocking Renewables Potential

NFUS and SAOS welcome pre-planning funding boost

NFU Scotland has used the North East Wind Energy Event, taking place at Methlick, Aberdeenshire today (Wednesday, 23 February) to call for planning officials and local authorities to adopt a more consistent and responsible approach to Scotland’s fledgling renewables sector.

Opening the event, NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said buy-in from the nation’s farmers was a big factor if Scotland is to hit its ambitious target of generating 80 percent of its power requirement from renewables by 2020. 

The farming industry’s appetite to get involved in renewable schemes, and the appreciation of what such projects can do for a farm business was growing daily. However, several potential projects were stalling at the planning stage.  The Union welcomed the recent additional funding made available to the industry by Scottish Government to assist in getting projects to the pre-planning level and it hopes that time spent at this stage will assist the application process at local authority level.

Speaking at the North East Wind Energy Event, Mr Miller said:

“The Scottish Government’s ambitious targets for renewable energy are heavily dependent on Scottish farmers buying into the benefits that energy generating schemes have to offer at a farm level – whether involved with wind, hydro, biogas or anaerobic digestion.

“The good news is that the UK’s Feed in Tariff scheme (FiTs) and the rewards available for generating energy means that for many Scottish farmers, small-scale renewables can be a viable means of diversification.   But the opportunity is now, and must be seized upon by all that have a part to play in growing our renewables sector. 

“It is important that the early review of FiTs, announced recently by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, does not derail or put the brakes on renewable opportunities and we will be feeding in our views to that consultation process.

“Here in Scotland, more often than not, it is planning authorities who are central to the future of any renewable energy schemes being planned for the Scottish countryside and I welcome the involvement of Aberdeenshire Council in today’s event.  Member experience of the planning process, to date, has been mixed and the level of inconsistency with regards to approval of projects can only drive frustration.  If we are genuinely serious about generating our own energy from renewable sources, then a presumption in favour of projects at the planning stage would be a big step forward.

“For many, getting to the planning stage requires a leap of faith.  That is why the additional funding announced by Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead at the NFUS AGM last week is so welcome.  An additional £2.4 million is being ploughed into the Communities and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) Loan Fund, and from April, the fund will have greater access to farmers and other land managers.

“The fund is there to help farmers through the risky start-up process, and will cover 90% of the costs involved in getting to the planning stage. The risk is low, as loans from the fund will only be paid back back by successful ventures.  This has the potential to speed up the development of the renewables sector in Scotland and I would urge any farmer considering venturing into a renewables project to look at what CARES can do to help them.”

Also commenting on the CARES funding, James Graham, Chief Executive of SAOS, said:

“The launch of the fund means that we can now get serious about bringing home the full financial rewards of renewables to rural businesses and communities throughout Scotland.  The grants will enable groups to get over the ‘first hurdle’ of the pre-planning stage and should free up some exciting and hugely beneficial collaborative projects.”

“Several of our member co-ops are at the forefront of the renewables sector - there’s a real buzz of excitement around these developments and, with the right decisions and equipment in place, they can be very profitable.  We are exceptionally lucky with the natural resources we have available to us in Scotland and ensuring businesses link up with local communities to ensure everyone benefits makes good sense.”  

Notes to Editors

  • The North East Wind Energy Event took place on Wednesday 23rd February at Skelmonae Farm, Methlick, Aberdeenshire, courtesy of David Smith.  The event included a site visit to a wind turbine with the option to visit smaller turbine at Inkhorn Farm, Methlick.
  • The event was opened by NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller and included presentations from Aberdeenshire Council, Icon Energy, Greenspan Agency and Ledingham Chalmers.
  • The Communities and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) includes support and advice at a local level. It is open to community groups, land managers, local businesses and co-operatives working in partnership with community groups. To access the fund, land managers should form partnerships with local communities to share revenue.
  • CARES is designed to de-risk the pre-planning stage of renewable energy projects by offering loans of up to £150,000 pounds to cover up to 90 per cent of the early costs which are repayable at a commercial rate should the scheme receive planning permission but written off if the application fails. Early costs could include environmental assessments, river flow analysis and deposits to connect to the national grid. Go to: http://www.communityenergyscotland.org.uk/cares.asp
  • Details on the review of Feed in Tariffs can be found at:  http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/uk_supply/energy_mix/renewable/feedin_tariff/review/review.aspx

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 34/11


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