6. Maximising Impact Of Benefits
Maximising the impact of benefits can be achieved through appropriate implementation: ensuring benefits are focused on appropriate topics and delivered through a suitable mechanism.
Some examples of way in which benefits can be realised are explored in the case studies.
6.2 Good Practice Principles
As defined at the start of this document, community benefits from offshore renewables may support Scottish communities in many ways.
In considering effective implementation, the following components should each be optimised:
1. Focus of community benefits
- Developers should encourage community benefits to support the sustainable development of Scotland's communities. This means that community benefit schemes should ultimately look to complement social, economic and environmental causes and to build resilient, sustainable communities. For more information on this see
2. Delivery mechanism
- Benefits may take the form of direct funding of projects, development of new business or projects in the area, financial payments or other benefits as deemed appropriate by developer and community.
The composition, delivery and structure of the package should be designed through dialogue with the local community as identified in Section 5.
A community benefit fund is considered a fundamental component of a community benefit package, though other components may also be considered. Any decisions on fund spend should be led by the community, informed through identification of local needs and guided by the developer as necessary.
Capacity building is fundamental to ensuring success and developers should signpost communities appropriately.
Good practice also encourages submission of information to the Scottish Government Community Benefit Register – developers and recipients should look to submit details of the process and outcomes, and keep the information up to date with detail on annual spend. Self-regulation of the industry through this online tool is intended.
Developers are not required to have ongoing input throughout the lifetime of the scheme, but rather to ensure the package is structured appropriately, i.e. through consultation, and to provide or signpost support where necessary. Any delivery mechanism or topic can be considered; communities and developers should work together to devise a site-specific solution.
The focus of a community benefit package should be driven by the local community, who should play an active role in determining how funds are spent. Starting points for such discussions may include the following:
- Apprenticeship schemes. See Case Study 7; further case studies from research
- Building capacity in the community;
- Contributing to charitable causes;
- Cultural assets;
- Development and support of natural capital, for example upgrades to areas of cultural or environmental interest;
- Educational support such as extra-curricular engagement with schools, colleges and universities;
- Environmental communities;
- Infrastructure upgrades;
- Local business support;
- Local electricity discounts;
- Local facilities or services to complement and not replace statutory provisions;
- Skills development programme;
- Support of local tourism such as creation or support of local facilities i.e. museums or visitor centres;
- Supporting local marine management issues;
- Supporting and developing women's empowerment networks.
6.3.2 Delivery Mechanism
The scale of a community benefit fund will be dependent on project variables and should be discussed openly with the community. Communities should understand that projects may be financially limited and should not expect transferal of fund arrangements from one project to another. See Case Study 6 for more detail. Where delivering a fund, suggested starting points for discussion include:
- Provision of a local community benefit fund administered by a new or existing local organisation.
- Structuring a new regional fund for the purpose of delivering the community benefit. This can benefit communities across a wider region than the immediate 'hosts'. While there may be less of a direct link between the project and the host community, this can help to ensure a more geographically equitable distribution of benefits.
- Other fund designated for a specific purpose, for example tourism, environment etc. These funds are likely allocated to certain projects by a board of trustees or local authorities;
- Working with other developers in the region to deliver a collaborative package; Contributions to existing regional funds.
Other measures may be delivered alongside a fund, to create a package of benefits - these should be identified by the developer on a site-specific basis, in consultation with the community. Developers may also wish to support communities to access expertise to maximise impact of a community benefit fund.
6.3.3 Capacity Building
Capacity building for communities is likely to be a focus at this stage – ensuring individuals and groups are equipped to contribute effectively to discussions. Developers should work and engage with stakeholders and agencies that can support the process, and in the early stages of consultation should signpost community groups to further support, including:
- Scottish Government provides support through the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), delivered by Local Energy Scotland at www.localenergyscotland.org. CARES can provide:
- Grant support for communities to look into forming a constituted group or develop an action plan;
- Advice and support from a regional development officer;
- Online community guidance package to help with the process;
- Scottish Government Register of Community Benefits from Renewables available online;
- Advice on engaging in joint venture partnerships and increased community ownership models;
- Advice to access further tailored funding and support.
- Community Energy Scotland provides networking services and capacity building: www.communityenergyscotland.org.uk.
- DTA Scotland provides support to groups wishing to form a community development trust: www.dtascot.org.uk.
- Education Scotland provides support with community learning and development, including community capacity building: www.educationscotland.gov.uk.
- Foundation Scotland can support community development and planning: https://www.foundationscotland.org.uk.
- Planning Aid Scotland provides support to community groups and other stakeholders on planning issues and concerns: www.pas.org.uk
- Planning4Real offers a community planning process based on a 3D model which allows residents to register their views on a range of issues: http://www.planningforreal.org.uk.
- The Scottish Community Development Centre provides support and training in building community capacity: www.scdc.org.uk/what/building-community-capacity.
It is recognised that there may on occasion be conflicts within or between stakeholder groups. It is recommended that developers seek advice or support in this scenario.
6.3.4 Governance and administration
It is vital that a governance and administration structure is selected on a site-by-site basis. The following questions could be considered as a starting point for discussion:
- Community capacity and resource
- Is the recipient group adequately resourced to deliver the scheme?
- Scale of fund
- Where large sums will be paid annually, does the recipient group have the confidence and experience to manage and distribute funds effectively?
- Structure of fund
- Will regular meetings be required?
- Is there an open application process which will require detailed assessment from a panel, or are there set criteria which will require minimal input?
- Have any potential conflicts of interest been identified?
It will be prudent for communities to seek professional advice to ensure that funds are administered correctly and accountably. Developers may wish to support this process.
Email: Lorne Frew