Social Value Charter set to unlock renewables investment

The Highlands is about to see unprecedented levels of public and private sector infrastructure investment over the next 20 years combined with numerous energy companies planning to invest in the Highland area.

In light of this, the Council has agreed to establish a Social Value Charter for Renewables Investment, which sets out the community benefit expectations from developers wishing to invest in renewables in this area and what the Highland partnership – public, private and community – will do to support and enable this contribution.

The Charter, agreed by Council, aims to embed an approach to community wealth building into Highland; maximise economic benefits from our natural environment and resources; engage and involve relevant stakeholders to understand how we can continually improve our impact; and unlock economic opportunities for the area.

It is underpinned by partnership objectives within the Highland Outcome Improvement Plan and the Highlands and Islands Regional Economic Partnership.

Leader of the Council Raymond Bremner said: “Highland has wealth of resources and expanding renewables development and the growth of production and investment in renewable energy in Highland has brought opportunities to the area. However, as time progresses, and the scale of renewables increases, there is a need to ensure that the wider Highland community can benefit more equally and fairly from profits being generated.

“In May, Highland Council has agreed a £2b plan which will deliver wide ranging investment across communities in the Highlands, with over £1bn of capital investment in schools and roads over the next 10 years in phase one of the programme.  This investment, coupled with the vast potential of income from the renewable energy industry, offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure inclusive growth and lasting benefits for all Highland communities.”

Convener Bill Lobban added: “The Social Value Charter does not give support to individual planning applications which will be dealt with as normal taking into consideration the merits of the application. In any case almost all of these developments are approved or not by the Scottish Government. What it is intended to do is make sure that the people of the Highlands get a share in the vast profits produced. There is a potential for many millions more per annum of investment into the Highlands. The scale of the opportunity is considerable, however currently, despite being at the centre of renewable development and investment, Highland as a region is not being compensated accordingly or able to translate this wealth into the necessary infrastructure to support the economic growth.

“Given the voluntary nature of the social value investors and developers need to commit to, it is important to set out a framework for Highland to support discussions with suppliers, and clarity on the price and privilege of doing business in Highland. Developing a more consistent approach to levering social benefit from renewables investment will enable greater benefit for Highland communities.”

The Charter sets out a 9-point plan to:

  1. Retain community benefit, and enable a collaborative approach with local communities to create a mechanism for them to transfer their residual community benefit sums to a strategic fund to bring added value to their community.
  2. Create a Strategic Fund and a Fund Partnership which will set out investment priorities for Highland communities
  3. Create legacy housing to support sustainable communities
  4. Support the development of the Highland Investment Plan projects
  5. Develop shared ownership models of investment in renewables
  6. Support skills and training initiatives
  7. Provide a Highland Project Bank, identifying community projects and initiatives to secure additional investment
  8. Fast-track for grid connections essential to growth
  9. Maximising socio-economic prosperity through the planning system

The full report can be found here.

27 Jun 2024