In a year when the Covid -19 crisis has brought new challenges to many communities, SSE Renewables has stepped in to help with its biggest ever community donation.
Some £10 million of additional investment will be gifted to communities across Great Britain and Ireland over 2020/21, reflecting not only the greater need for support, but the growth of the renewable assets which SSE Renewables is investing in to achieve a net zero future. The Highlands and Islands, home to the widest spread of SSE Renewables’ community funds, has particularly benefitted with £5.4 million going to support 205 projects in the Highland region alone, from community energy projects to the construction of much needed community housing, and from supporting sports clubs and cultural and heritage programmes to providing lifeboat crew training and helping communities and groups meet the challenge of the pandemic,
Jim Smith, managing director of SSE Renewables, said: “The past year has demonstrated to us all how important our local communities are. We are thankful that communities have trusted us to provide financial support during this difficult year.”
SSE Renewables is also playing its part in helping the country recover from the economic impact of Covid by continuing to invest in renewable energy developments which will create jobs, support existing businesses and help Scotland and the UK achieve their climate challenge goals.
In the last year alone, this has seen work begin on onshore and offshore developments which will produce up to 5GW of clean energy.
“These sites provide jobs, skills and infrastructure but equally as important, they deliver real social benefits,” Mr Smith said.
“We will invest over £300 million in community benefit from our current renewable assets. Experience shows that local people use these funds to transform their communities, from building housing to reduce depopulation of rural communities through to supporting apprenticeship programmes which ensure young people have opportunities and are equipped for the jobs of the future.”
These investments are already helping young Highlanders find new career opportunities.
With young people in the 16-25 age group twice as likely to have lost their job as a result of the pandemic, SSE Renewables’ Sustainable Development Fund has invested in two new projects to improve the employability skills of young people living in the Highlands.
New Start Highland, which provides housing support and essential household items for those in need, also provides training to help in finding work.
SSE Renewables is donating £47,139 towards New Start’s new Inverness training academy, which will provide participants with the qualifications and experience needed to secure and maintain a full-time job.
New Start deputy chief executive Mairi Macaulay said: “Funding from SSE Renewables has been fundamental to moving forward.
“The lives of participants will be transformed through developing skills, gaining work experience and achieving qualifications.”
SSE Renewables has also awarded £102,000 to Farmer Jones Academy which offers experimental accredited training and apprenticeships to young people aged 14 to 24 years old living in the Highlands, with an emphasis on opportunities in farming and food and drink.
Beatrice brings windfall for north community groups
Scotland’s largest operating wind farm, the 84 turbine Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm off Caithness has already generated income for communities in the Far North and Moray.
The Highland Beatrice Partnership Fund has delivered £2 million to local projects in Caithness and Sutherland over its five-year lifetime, benefitting groups like Dunbeath and District Centre, which receives £50,000 to support a manager, and East Sutherland Rescue Centre, which receives a similar amount for a new boat shed.
The region also gained from the Beatrice Caithness Community Fund, which delivered a further £2 million. This included £10,000 to Caithness Community Connections, which enabled it to support vulnerable residents in the Lybster area during lockdown, delivering more than 150 meals each week .
Other contributions from the fund are supporting more long term initiatives.
Sinclair’s Bay Trust, which received £4000 from the Caithness Community Fund, is among the many development trusts which will be able to take control of their own projects and sustainable solutions thinks to the support of SSE Renewables.
Trust volunteer Pat Ramsay commented: “Sinclair’s Bay Trust is a newly formed group. The Beatrice Community Fund has allowed to take our first brave steps on our community journey.”
Moray is also gaining from Beatrice support, with a total of £3 million injected into community projects in the county through the Moray partnership and community funds.
Funding from the latter helped safeguard the future of the Lossie 2-3 Group’s childcare service when the community hall it used was due to close. A £50,000 award enabled a move to a new site, and a further £15,000 emergency award helped maintain its core services over lockdown.
Bringing sustainable power to local communities
Among the funding increases over 2020/21 SSE Renewables doubled the value of its Sustainable Development Fund awards made in the Highlands to £2.2 million.
This has enabled eight renewable energy projects across the region to progress, helping local communities move towards a low carbon future, providing both clean energy and new economic opportunities by providing the necessary infrastructure needed to attract investment.
In one of SSE Renewables’ largest Sustainable Development Fund donations, £300,000 was provided to Isle of Raasay Development Trust to build two run of river hydro schemes on the island.
The early investment from the fund was pivotal in enabling the trust to secure a further £650,000 from crowd funding. Once operational, the hydro scheme will provide affordable energy to a community where almost half the population – 44 per cent – are classed as being in fuel poverty, but importantly will also encourage new businesses including tourism ventures, to establish themselves on the island.
It will also substantially reduce Raasay’s carbon footprint. Once fully operational, the scheme will provide CO2 savings equivalent to around 127 tonnes of CO2e per year.
Elizabeth Macleod, Raasay development officer said “With significant support from SSE Renewables, Raasay has been able to take forward our communities’ vision of generating sustainable, renewable energy.”
Fellow west coast community Knoydart has been awarded £176,000 to help initiate a more resilient energy system following a major failure in the hydropower pipeline supplying electricity to the community.
With no national electricity grid supply, this significantly impacted the rural and remote community and local businesses.
The Knoydart Energy Security Project will also stimulate local economic growth, including a potential new local brewery and the possibility of providing shore-based power to cruise ships, and is expected to support development in the Lochaber peninsula for the next 40 years.
A further £43,838 is also being invested to support Highland communities develop their own solar energy projects, in association with Low Energy Scotland, while the Isle of Eigg Community Trust will receive £100,000 to improve the island’s energy infrastructure.
In neighbouring Moray, a £10,739 donation will enable the Findhorn Foundation to instal solar panels.
Locals and visitors will gain from SSE Renewables awards
After a year which has confined people to their local area fro months at a time, SSE Renewables funding is helping more people enjoy the outdoors, and provide a much needed boost to the Highland tourism sector.
This includes £200,000 from the Highland Sustainable Development Fund towards the creation of a £5 million discovery centre at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Kincraig Wildlife Park in the Cairngorms.
Not only will this help the centre attract an estimated 160,000 visitors each year, as the only visitor centre in Scotland dedicated to showcasing native wildlife and conservation projects, it will also help people of all ages develop their skills and understanding on how to conserve our native wildlife heritage and inspire young people to engage with activities designed to develop their science, technology, engineering, maths (STEM) skills.
RZSS chief executive David Field said: “We are very grateful for support from SSE Renewables towards building Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre at Highland Wildlife Park. This exciting new experience will play a pivotal role in inspiring more people to protect and connect with nature and wildlife.”
SSE Renewbales is also helping people connect with the natural environment by supporting the creation of local pathways, as at Rogart where £45,000 from the Gordonbush Wind Farm Community Fund was used to create a community path network for the Sutherland village, including replacing a footbridge to complete the circular route.
“The Gordonbush grant has enabled Rogart Development Trust to finalise the four-mile Round Rogart Path,” the trust’s Kate Roach said.
“This will give visitors and locals alike a circular way-marked route promoting a healthy outdoor lifestyle.”
Other projects to benefit tourists and locals alike include Strathnaver Museum Trust receiving £150,000 to improve its visitor experience, £66,74 to enable Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust to develop a replica Viking village and £827 for a Beastie Trail at Glenmoriston.