Investing in communities and green projects has always been a priority for energy company, SSE Renewables, so when the pandemic hit, it decided to DOUBLE its funding amount for the Highlands to the tune of £5.4m.
Last year (2020-21), SSE Renewables donated £10million to community groups across Great Britain and Ireland – and to date has supported more than 2,000 Highland projects. The cash injection doesn’t only recognises the growth of renewable assets being built to achieve a net zero future but also the support that has been provided to communities when they need it most during the pandemic.
In January, The Press & Journal spoke to four community projects who received a share and they told us about the positive impact the cash boosts in 2020-21 had.
Since then, the Highlands has welcomed more investment thanks to the Highland Sustainable Development Fund.
A new report, called Community Investment Review, has been published by SSE Renewables to document its investments in a range of community projects in a bid to help green recovery across the regions in which it is constructing onshore and offshore developments.
Jim Smith, managing director of SSE Renewables, said in the Community Investment Review that the most positive thing to come out of the investment is “the way people come together to meet the challenges they face”.
He added: “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. We are committed to using the green recovery and the growth of our renewables infrastructure to help even more communities in the year to come.”
SSE Renewables has committed a staggering £300milllion investment in community benefit from its current renewable assets – this total makes the energy giant one of “the largest investors in this field in Europe”.
Here are some projects to benefit from SSE Renewables funding:
Building green communities with cash boost of £725,000
Recognising that innovative local renewable solutions are needed to help tackle the global climate crisis, SSE Renewables has contributed almost three-quarters of a million pounds to eight renewable energy projects in the Highlands, including the Isle of Raasay Development Trust which received £300,000, the largest ever award from the Sustainable Development Fund.
Isle of Raasay Development Trust is to use the £300k funding towards building not one, but two, run-of-river hydro schemes. This early investment helped trust to secure a further £650,000 from crowd funding. The hydro scheme will not only help reduce the 44% of the island population who are in fuel poverty but will also encourage new businesses including tourism ventures. Once fully operational, the scheme will provide CO2 savings equivalent to c127 tonnes of CO2e per year.
The Knoydart Energy Security Project was launched after a major failure in the hydropower pipeline supplying electricity to the community.
With no national electricity grid supply in Knoydart, a failure in the hydropower system significantly impacted the rural and remote community and local businesses. The Sustainable Development Fund panel awarded £176,000 to help initiate a more resilient energy system that’s fit for purpose and will support development in Knoydart for the next 40 years. This new system will stimulate local economic growth including a potential new local brewery and the possibility of providing shore-based power to cruise ships that dock at the community pier.
Helping the Highlands’ tourism recovery with £200,000
The tourism industry was hit hard by the pandemic so SSE Renewables has pledged £200,000 towards a new tourist attraction that is being built at the Highland Wildlife Park. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) is bringing a new £5m discovery centre to Kingussie. The centre, which will be located in the Cairngorms National Park, will become “the only visitor centre in Scotland dedicated to showcasing native wildlife and exciting conservation projects working to protect it”.
RZSS will create a flexible learning and educational event space within the centre and it aims to give access to more people (an estimated 160,000 visitors a year), allowing them to develop their understanding on how to conserve our native wildlife heritage. The inspiring setting will focus on enabling children and young people to engage with STEM subject activities. Once opened, an outreach programme, combined with use of the Skype Global Classroom platform, will expand the reach of the project across the Highland region.
David Field, CEO of Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, 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.”
Transforming young people’s lives with £149,000
Two new project that aims to boost the employability of young people in the Highlands shared almost £150,000. SSE Renewables felt it was important to help after it was reported that people aged 16 to 25 were more than twice as likely as older workers to have lost their job during the pandemic, making them the hardest hit age group. This donation to both projects will help from than 1,000 young people access new training opportunities.
The Farmer Jones Academy offers experimental accredited training and apprenticeships to young people living in the north Highlands. The project provides training, masterclasses and apprenticeships to young people aged 14 to 24 years old. The programme leads local sectors with initial programmes focused on farming, food & drink and enterprise.
New Start Highland has developed a new complex for its Inverness Training Academy. The new initiative will match the demand from a key employment sector, including wholesale, with job ready, fully trained participants who possess both the qualifications and level of job experience needed to succeed in getting and maintaining a full-time job.
Mairi Macaulay Deputy Chief Executive, New Start Highland, said: “Funding received from SSE Renewables has been fundamental to moving forward plans for New Start Highland’s training academy. The lives of participants will be transformed through developing skills, gaining work experience and achieving qualifications.”
£72million released from energy fund for Shetland communities
A new fund has been launched opening up £72millon for Shetlanders.
As SSE Renewables always seeks to invest in the communities where it is carrying out on or off shore energy projects, it has created a specific fund for Shetlanders. That’s because it is currently on Shetland creating the Viking Energy Wind Farm which will provide enough power for 475,000 homes. Off the back of this, The Viking Community Fund has been launched – to the tune of £72m, making it the largest renewable community benefit fund in Great Britain.
Before the main money is allocated, the people of Shetland will be asked about what community organisations and projects they feel should benefit from a cash injection. Then a business plan will be developed to outline how the £72m investment will be used to support community priorities through grants, loans and investments. Micro-grants will also be awarded across the 18 community council areas.
The fund will be administered by Shetland Community Benefit Fund.
Chris Bunyan, chairman of the Shetland Community Benefit Fund, said: “The Viking Community Fund, the largest onshore fund in the UK, is both frightening and exciting for Shetland Community Benefit Fund Ltd. Managing the fund presents us with enormous challenges but tremendous opportunities to help sustain and develop the local communities. The fund has the potential to make a genuine difference in tackling the problems and issues that concern islanders. We look forward to working with SSE Renewables on the journey ahead.”
The Shetland MRI Scanner Appeal benefited from the fund’s first award of £200,000 which will now provide significant health improvement for islanders for years to come.
SSE Renewables is committed to green recovery, and the role it plays. In the last year alone SSE Renewables has initiated construction of onshore and offshore developments which will provide 5GW of clean energy. These sites provide jobs, skills and infrastructure to local areas – including the Highlands – but perhaps more importantly, they deliver real social benefits.
To find out more about SSE Renewables, part of SSE proud sponsor COP 26 in Glasgow, visit the SEE Renewables website here.