Communities throughout the Western Isles who will be benefiting from an income of between £100,000 and £1million each year gathered at a Community Energy Scotland event in Stornoway last week.
The community groups, based throughout the Western Isles from the Butt to Barra, are all involved in community energy projects – either generating revenue themselves through a community wind turbine or hydro scheme, or benefiting from an income provided by commercial renewables projects.
There were presentations from OSCR (the charity regulator) and a third party loan provider, along with an update on similar projects in Orkney from Community Energy Scotland’s Technical Manager, Mark Hull.
Key issues surrounding charity law and the definitions given to development trusts by OSCR were thrashed out by around twenty representatives from eleven community groups in the Western Isles who gathered at the event, and the different means of fund distribution were also discussed.
These topics are becoming extremely relevant for groups such as Storas Uibhist and the Muaitheabhal Trust, who are already having to address the issues of distributing income from a renewable energy project.
Horshader Community Development have installed a 900kW turbine. Angela MacLeod, Development Officer at Horshader, said: “Both the OSCR and loans events hosted by CES last week were invaluable in helping Horshader define and clarify our funding criteria and internal procedures.”
Key to managing community funds on behalf of the wider community is ensuring that the funds are dealt with as fairly and as transparently as possible.
Community Energy Scotland will be assisting the groups in finding out more information on which projects within the communities are eligible for charities to fund. OSCR left the meeting with a better understanding of some of the challenges which are faced by Development Trusts who are looking to distribute a significant amount of income.
Community Energy Scotland’s development officer, Kathleen MacDonald commented: “It is essential that those involved in regulating charities understand the revolution which is happening in communities through community renewables.
“These projects lead to substantial amounts of money coming into communities and we want to see them being able to support key sectors such as housing and employment and tackling depopulation. CES will be following up this meeting with a briefing note to OSCR on the hurdles faced by community energy projects which are led by charitable organisations.”