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23-03-2015

Rise in community power output praised by Friends of the Earth

The amount of electricity produced by projects owned by local communities has increased by more than a quarter in the last year, the Scottish Government has revealed.

Ministers have set the target of having plants producing 500 megawatts (MW) of power in communities and local ownership by 2020.

The latest figures show such schemes can generate 361MW, up from 285MW in the previous year.

The increase was revealed by energy minister Fergus Ewing ahead of the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme conference in Stirling.

Mr Ewing said: "The Scottish Government is driving forward a community energy empowerment programme to ensure that local communities derive maximum benefits from the local energy resources around them.

"By creating a system that focuses on local energy, we can help tackle some of our most pressing issues - from security of supply to increasing costs - and stimulate local economic renewal.

"The biggest reason for that is a lot of hard work and determination from communities and developers.

"There are many good examples of this across Scotland like the Point and Sandwick Wind Farm is a fully-owned community scheme on the Isle of Lewis - the biggest of its kind in the UK.

"It is expected to be operational later this year and will generate money for the local community - estimated around £1m a year.

"Stewart Energy demonstrates how local developers and communities can make shared ownership work.

"The Stewart family were committed to keeping the benefits of renewable energy in their community by offering the community a 25% stake."

He added: "Our target of 500MW in community and local ownership by 2020 is ambitious but we believe that government, developers, banks and local communities all working together can help achieve it."

Anne Schiffer, Friends of the Earth Scotland community power campaigner, said: "Community ownership of energy builds public support for renewables, enables communities to make decisions about their energy future and will help reduce carbon emissions."

She added: "At Friends of the Earth Scotland we believe that individuals and community groups should be able to put their own money in community energy initiatives including shared-ownership projects.

"We need to think ahead to a time when communities here in Scotland are able to follow Ecopower and other European examples and supply as well as generate renewable energy through the national grid.

"It is important that we encourage legal structures now that will enable Scottish communities to participate in the energy market in the future."

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