Across Scotland, communities are receiving income from renewable energy schemes which they can spend to benefit their local areas. There is now a growing body of knowledge on the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches and how they can be used to the communities’ best advantage.
Having a good idea of what outcomes you wish to achieve will help you make good decisions, and the recommendation is that planning should start before the first cheque arrives. If this is a community owned and managed renewable energy project, planning and community consultation should start before you decide that you should proceed with the project. A good community development plan will give some indication of the scale of the project you might want to meet the needs of your community. The development plan will also help you explain the project to others, particularly when you are seeking additional finance, and will provide the basis for decision making when, eventually, your project starts generating income.
Your structure and process should be in proportion to the scale of the fund at your disposal. There is no point setting up elaborate systems and governance to manage and distribute a small fund. Find the simplest, uncluttered solution while maintaining accountability and transparency. You will need some paperwork, but keep it in proportion to the scale of the task. Whether a large fund or a small fund it will need planning and the earlier this is done the better. It is up to you to decide what constitutes large as opposed to small, and this will not be the same for every group.
The resulting income can be used to benefit the local community in many ways, currently communities are choosing areas like:
* Investment to provide some stability for the long term management of funds eg. investing in stocks and bonds, other renewable energy schemes.
Relationship between levels of ownership/control, risk/responsibility and income
Communities can attain benefit, revenue and investment from renewable energy projects in three ways. These depend on, and are linked to, the type of ownership of the developments see Models of ownership
The case studies section gives examples and more information on these models.
Regardless of how the income is generated, an effective community fund should:
These pages provide practical advice on what to consider in managing a fund. There are also examples of three communities and their chosen fund management model. This document does not give legal or tax advice. In such situations it is recommended guidance is sought from an appropriate professional.