Community benefits: letter to UK Government

Letter from the Energy Minister to the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero on mandating community benefits for onshore energy developments

From: Gillian Martin, Minister for Energy & Environment
To: Claire Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Security & Net Zero

Dear Claire

Mandating community benefits

The recent UK Government announcement on community benefits for network infrastructure recognised that local communities which host transmission network infrastructure should benefit directly. This is an important move in the right direction, and I urge you to take the logical next step and explore mandating community benefit more widely. Under the announced proposals, people who live in communities near network infrastructure will be guaranteed community benefits, but people who live in e communities  near energy generation infrastructure will not. This is despite the fact that energy generation is just as crucial a part of our energy transition as network.

We share a belief that transforming our energy system is fundamental to meeting both Scotland and the UK Government’s net zero targets. Getting the energy transition right not only delivers on our joint climate commitments but will enable both Scotland and the UK to fully realise the enormous economic potential of further renewables deployment. The people and businesses in communities  near all parts of this energy system – the developments which produce renewable electricity as well as the network infrastructure that transports it - should see the benefit from our abundant energy resources.

The Cabinet Secretary and I have consistently called on the UK Government to explore mandating community benefits for onshore energy developments. I am writing to reiterate that call.

In Scotland, we have made significant progress through a voluntary approach out of necessity, with many renewable energy developers in Scotland leading the way through the Onshore Wind Sector Deal and, we expect, in the forthcoming Solar Vision. However, the time is right to go further, and I urge you to extend the UK Government’s current plans. We would also be keen to work closely with the UK Government to consider the best approach to community benefits for offshore wind, as this sector is clearly at an earlier stage. This will deliver clarity, confidence and consistency for communities and industry as we work together to build our future net zero energy system.

By working together, our governments could ensure that community benefit proposals deliver seamlessly for the people of Scotland and Great Britain. I would like to thank the Minister for Nuclear and Networks for his meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy in advance of the Autumn Statement announcement. I welcome Minister Bowie’s commitment to ongoing, constructive discussion on these plans.

It is essential that the Scottish and Welsh Governments are closely involved in the development of planned guidance to help local communities and transmission operators to work together effectively, and that this is done at pace. This will help ensure that the guidance meets the needs of our different communities, and is appropriate to our varied geographical and energy contexts. I would welcome clarity on how the Scottish Government will be involved in both the development of this guidance, and wider policy on community benefits.

I look forward to working with you to ensure that people and communities are at the heart of a just energy transition.

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