The Scottish Government has been urged to issue national guidance on how much wind farm developers should pay in community benefit.
The majority of developers deal directly with the communities most affected, but a study by Robert Gordon University suggests that this means power is firmly held by the companies, often to the detriment of residents in terms of the benefits they can secure.
Scottish Renewables recently launched a “protocol” stating that for every megawatt (MW) of installed capacity, £5000 of community benefit should be made available to invest in local priorities. The Highland Council set the figure as a benchmark several years ago.
But the report’s authors believe that local government should play a more central role via the planning process.
Professor Peter Strachan, of RGU’s Aberdeen Business School, said that community benefit packages had a curious position within the planning system, as they could not influence the determination of an application.
He said: “Scotland has witnessed a rapid expansion of onshore wind power during the past 12 years. Much of this is corporately owned.
“It is clear that after more than ten years of wind power deployment, Scottish local government lacks robust and nationally coordinated frameworks for strategically managing community benefits provision.”
Developers should promote a variety of ownership arrangements, he said.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was for local authorities to decide how they wish to see community benefits distributed. But the Government was committed to maximising the opportunities for community benefits.
Meanwhile, a new report from Foundation Scotland predicts that the current annual figure of almost £7 million in community benefit from wind farms is likely to treble by 2017. But projecting forward to wind farmsplanned and being scoped, this amount could be closer to £50m by 2020.
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