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Highland Councillors have agreed to ask prospective developers of wind, wave or hydro power in their area to sign a concordat to demonstrate their willingness to work in harmony with the local community.

Councillors believe the current level of benefit offered to communities from operators of renewable energy developments is inadequate and they are eager to campaign to establish procedures so that a greater share of the profits from the business should be secured for the local community.

The concordat will encourage the industry to: -
· Engage openly with and within the community affected;
Work to assist the maximum direct/indirect community benefit;
Divulge in confidence to the local renewable energy community trust, the profitability of the operations;
Restore and reinstate the landscape to the highest possible standards.

They also want to assist community representatives in exploring the possibility of communities holding percentage investment shares in local renewable energy developments.

At a special meeting of the Sustainable Development Select Committee, they agreed on a range of procedures which would make it clear to developers from the start of their interest in a particular location what was expected of them in terms of community consultation and community benefit and it would greatly assist communities in dealing with developers.

The concordat was seen as a voluntary procedure. However, failure to sign up would send out warning signals to the community.

The Committee agreed the following action: -

  • To provide the community with a seamless service, by offering the support of representatives from the Council and Highland Opportunity Ltd in liaison with Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s Community Energy Unit;

  • To set up Trust Funds to receive and disburse community funds;

  • To ask the Fund trustees to invest for the future, using income to lever match funding from other agencies and to build up community assets, such as affordable housing, land reform and energy efficiency

The Select Committee has also recommended that councillors taking part in negotiations for community benefit should not take part in the consideration of the planning application.

Discussions are also to take place with other affected local authorities and, possibly thereafter, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Scottish Executive and the wind energy industry with a view to seeking a national tariff for community benefit farm developers.

Wind farm activity in Highland is as follows: -
Operational: Novar, Evanton (34 turbines); Forss, by Thurso (2).
Approved but not yet constructed: Buolfruich, Houstry, Dunbeath (15); Causeymire, Caithness (24); Edinbane, Skye (27; Farr, Tomatin (40).
Submitted but not yet determined: Borrowston, Dounreay (10); Beinn Thasuinn (20); Ben Aketil, Dunvegan (14).

Preliminary Interest: Novar II Extension (20); Gordonbush, Brora (55); Dunmaglass, Strathnairn (100 MW); Forss II extension (9); Scoolary, Caithness (48); Corriemoillie, Garve (30-40 MW); Cambusmore, Strath Fleet (22-35); Melvich, Sutherland (6); South of Glen Moriston (34); Strath Brora (46).

Others known about: Bettyhill, Sutheland; Nigg Hill, East Ross; Sleat, Skye.

The total estimated capacity of all these developments is 905 MW.

On top of this, 10 small scale hydro electricity schemes have been approved, while there are five awaiting consideration and two anticipated. The total capacity of these projects is 16 MW.