The Shared Ownership Option
There are many difficulties that communities have to encounter in developing renewable energy projects. These can relate to land ownership and negotiating lease agreements, planning constraints arising from the ecological or visual impact of what you are trying to do, or the simple lack of an affordable grid connection that allows you to export the power you wish to generate. And that is even before you have to try and convince a bank to lend you the money you need to install it.
Projects can take years from conception to inception, and there is no guarantee that your enthusiastic community group will stay the course and see its aspirations converted into reality.
Commercial renewable energy developers face the same frustrations, but unlike communities, they don’t have all their eggs in one basket. They are not dependent on a single site, but rather spread the risk by having a number of developments on the go at any one time. This portfolio approach means they are better able to spread risk, whilst the fact that it is their day job means they have the time and the capacity to push on with developments at what, to a community group, will seem like break neck speed.
But believe it or not, it is not a case of them and us. Renewable energy companies need communities, both to garner support for their schemes to create a more permissive planning process, and to demonstrate that they are living up to their obligations.
Recent guidance from DECC has led to a voluntary code of practice that requires renewable energy developments to discuss the potential of shared ownership. This is where communities are offered a stake in the development of a commercial scheme. This could take the form of a percentage share in the overall income generated by, say, a windfarm, or where the community might be offered the outright ownership of one or more turbines within the windfarm. There is the no-small-matter of the community raising the required investment to buy into the ‘shared ownership’ scheme, but commercial and share equity finance should be available for a commercial scale scheme, and the potential rewards for the community could be great.
Though the DECC initiative is new, examples of shared ownership schemes do exist, primarily in Scotland, and Community Energy wales will be working with Community Energy Scotland and Community Energy England to promote the take up of shared ownership opportunities in Wales.
For more information, see the Shared Ownership pages on the dedicated Shared Community Ownership of Renewable Energy Systems (SCO-RES) website, here.
This page is also available in: Welsh