Taking the LEAD on energising Moray

    Posted on 11 October 2019

    The first Energising Communities conference in Moray was held on May 3rd 2019, with Fifty-five delegates from community organisations, Community Councils, support organisations and the local authority in attendance. Through its Animation strand, Moray LEADER supported the delivery of the conference with the Joint Community Councils.

    Experts from community energy organisations, successful community groups and the Scottish Investment Bank gave informative and inspiring presentations. Developer, Force 9, also spoke about the opportunities offered by the potential Clash Gour wind farm.

    One of the key messages of the day was, “it’s not about the energy, it’s what the energy can do”. Those in attendance heard first-hand that a background in renewable energy is not essential to develop community energy projects. “There is free support and expert advice available and groups should take full advantage of that,” said Nicholas Gubbins of Community Energy Scotland. “To meet Scotland’s zero carbon targets, renewable energy is going to have to quadruple. The grid network is working hard to open opportunities for local generation, local use.” He shared a number of case studies from across Scotland to give a flavour of the diverse local solutions to local problems.

    “I was just about in tears listening to that,” said one delegate after hearing John Garson from Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre Community Development Trust speak about how income from a single wind turbine is being used to improve quality of life for folk on the Orkney island group. In common with many rural areas, the islands were identified at being at risk due to population decline. Thanks to regular and wide consultation with the islanders from nursery school to ninety year olds, the Trust has funded projects large and small. From buying land and looking into affordable housing, to providing solar storm lanterns for the safety of older residents during power cuts, and subsidising ferry travel for music and sports lessons, the income has made a real difference.

    Closer to home, Donald Boyd from Huntly & District Development Trust reflected on their ten-year history with sage advice about the hard work required to explore, develop and finally benefit from successful and ambitious renewables projects. He spoke about next steps and future plans for the Trust including exciting plans for some disused town centre properties in Huntly. “Finally,” he said, “It might be encouraging to know that our community energy story began at a conference very like this one.”

    Huntly & District Development Trust is just one organisation who has benefited from the support available from Local Energy Scotland (LES). LES spoke about what they can offer groups, from the ‘ideas’ stage onward and how they can facilitate access to development grant and loan funding. Since the conference, local groups across Moray have met with Local Energy Scotland to talk about the next steps in developing their own community energy projects.