Community ownership maximises the economic benefits of renewable energy schemes and provides a conduit for promoting energy efficiency measures and an educational forum to promote changing current consumption habits. Communities include those within a certain geographical area and people who share common values.
As the number of dispersed, renewable energy schemes increase it is essential to engage the general public so they feel involved, consulted and supportive of the transition away from centralised fossil fuel and nuclear power stations. Whilst the reasons for supporting renewables are widely acknowledged amongst decision makers, industry and environmentalists not everybody is aware of these benefits and often begrudge evolution that occurs on the landscape.
One of the most effective methods to engage people is through ownership where benefits of developments to both individuals and communities are real and tangible.
The wind, as with the sun and the waves, represents an inexhaustible supply of ‘free’ energy that nobody actually owns. Therefore whoever owns the wind turbines receives the benefits from the sale of the electricity that is produced. Public ownership of wind turbines helps to maximise the regional economic benefits of local resources and sense of involvement. Owning shares in a local wind energy project can also improve peoples’ understanding and appreciation of energy generation and use as demonstrated in countries across Europe.
Benefits of renewable energy to the economy include job creation, rents, rates, services and the production of affordable electricity; an essential component of any economy and reducing the impacts of climate change. The levels of funds staying within the economy are significantly increased if the schemes are owned or part owned by local people themselves and the knock on effect of money generated from the industry remaining within the economy.
Community involvement schemes are less contentious and are beneficial as ownership not only provides a steady stream of income but also allows people to be members of a co-operative committed to maximising social, economic and environmental benefits to the locality and providing a vehicle for decision making etc.
Part or full ownership of wind farms by the community is the most effective way to maintain profits in the local economy, provide a sense of involvement and thus increase the grass root level of support for renewable energy and additional climate change mitigation measures. Community ownership of turbines reduces profits ending up in shareholders pockets overseas and elsewhere in the UK, and thus maximises the percentage left behind in the communities. Revenue is distributed locally and is then available for reinvestment elsewhere rather than servicing loans from city banks and overseas firms.