Kirk believes energy legislation is too complex for small communities to benefit
A “spaghetti” of legislation is making coimmunity energy schemes unfeasible and preventing communities from taking them on, the Church of Scotland has claimed.
Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, who convenes the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, called on the Scottish Government to streamline the “long and arduous process” facing community energy schemes if they are to reach their potential.
The kirk was responding to the Scottish Government’s Community Energy Policy Statement which is currently consulting on the best way forward to make community ownership of energy assets, such as wind turbines, easier.
Foster-Fulton said the obstacles currently presented are too great with complex barriers which small community groups found difficult to take on.
“Communities seeking to develop local renewable energy have to deal with issues of land ownership, planning, setting up community businesses, negotiating feed in tariffs, securing access to the grid," she said.
“They are also dealing with a range of professional bodies like local authorities, power companies and environment agencies who do not necessarily know how to work with communities or have the flexibility or motivation to ensure community schemes come to fruition.”
We suggest an ambitious target: that every community which has the opportunity to develop a community energy scheme - Rev Sally Foster-Fulton
The negative experience of one church congregation on the Orkney island of Papa Westray who wanted to erect a wind turbine was summed up by the local minster, Rev Iain Macdonald.
He said: “Despite unanimous support from all community bodies, no resident objectors and meeting all planning regulations, there was one very strong objector, who lived in the south but owned a holiday cottage in the isle - their objection led to a planning enquiry which held up the whole process for several weeks and took us to the very edge of losing out on grant funding.”
Another project manager from Argyll commented on the “spaghetti tangle of interlinked, interwoven activity” needed to develop a community energy project.
Foster-Fulton said: “We suggest an ambitious target: that every community which has the opportunity to develop a community energy scheme should be encouraged to do so and that the Scottish Government examine what practical steps would be needed to achieve this ambition.”
The Church of Scotland supports the charity Eco-Congregation Scotland, which is recognised as one of Scotland’s largest and fastest growing environmental charities.
There are currently 319 eco-congregations around the country.