Arran’s renewable future takes a step forward

Some great news came in for Arran Eco Savvy, and for the development of renewable energy on Arran last week – the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) will fund Eco Savvy to progress a Solar PV project on the Auchrannie sports hall roof through their Enablement grant and Capital grant awards scheme.

Eco Savvy says, “This is fantastic news and we are very excited to get going.”

How did we get here?

A steering group has been working towards a renewable project for some time and identified options. We recently held a virtual meeting where we discussed work done so far and held a Q & A session. The presentation was recorded before we knew we had funding and you can watch it anytime here.

The funding will help us to progress through the next steps with the proposal to put Solar PV panels on the sports hall roof of the Auchrannie Spa Hotel. It will cover all the front end professional services work like legal, technical, planning, financial, community engagement and share offer preparation.

The capital costs of installation will be part funded by shares that will be sold to the community and the capital grant. This all has conditions and break points that we will need to confirm during the enablement stage.

To learn more please see our FAQs page  or drop us an email. Contact details are at the bottom of this page. Some FAQ’s are reprinted here:

Q: What exactly is it that you have asked for funding for?

A: We have applied to the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) for a Solar PV project on the sports hall roof of the Auchrannie. This will enable technical, commercial and legal support to take the project from where we are now through to construction. Although we have a good idea of how the project will run, it is important for us to get external input to stress test our assumptions based on similar projects. We also need to cover both ourselves and future shareholders against possible risks, such as changing electricity prices. We also need professional support to negotiate with SSEN on the design and cost of the electricity grid connection and to set up a new legal entity to run the project so that the governance is clear and cash flows are guaranteed to flow back to the community. This request is for a CARES ‘Enablement Grant’ – we have also applied separately for a capital grant towards the construction costs of the project.

Q: When will this all take place?

A: We are currently working with Community Shares Scotland https://communitysharesscotland.org.uk/ on possible details of a share offer and expect this to carry on until Christmas. Between November and February we will undertake all outstanding technical, commercial, permitting and legal work as well as gaining feedback from yourselves on anything else we should be considering for the project. If there is sufficient community buy-in we will look to launch a community share offer in early spring and if we raise sufficient local capital, look to start construction in Spring 2021. The construction period is short and so all being well the project will be live before summer 2021. By virtue of being a community project, if there is insufficient local interest and therefore insufficient community investment, the project will not go ahead.

Q: How will the project be in the best interests of the wider community?

A: The benefits of all types of community owned renewable schemes are both for residents, the shareholders and Arran as a whole. The aim is to Stop Climate Change by enabling investment in renewable energy. We can’t all have solar panels on our roofs but some of us may have savings that are not acquiring much interest in the bank. Investing in community renewables can give better returns while supporting community projects continue further work towards stopping climate change. By setting up a Community Benefit Society we will keep all investment in the local community, allowing the benefits to flow back to a community green fund for important environmental island projects.

Q: What is a Community Benefit Society?

A: Community benefit societies or Ben Coms, are owned by the people that live and work or support the community it is set up to benefit. This is a not for profit legal form for organisations that wish to operate for purposes that benefit the community as a whole. Members hold at least one share in the organisation and have one vote. Unlike in a limited company, the number of votes a member has does not increase with the number of shares they hold, making them a democratic model that works well for social economy organisations. This type of organisation is set up to have a Social Purpose and to re-invest any profits made back into the society rather than existing to maximise financial returns for members.

Q: Why Community Shares?

A: Community Shares are a way for people to invest in what matters to them. To raise the additional funds we hope to launch a share offer to allow the community to invest and become members. This will result in the Ben Com owning the solar panels and the electricity they generate will be sold. The profit will allow dividends to be paid to shareholders and a community fund to be set up.

Community Share Scotland are helping us to develop the business plan and shares offer document. With good returns to shareholders, other community groups have been running similar projects very successfully. We will be eligible for support and funding from sources that commercial companies can not access. This puts us in a position to lead the way and help our wider community reduce carbon and inject profits back into other environmentally important island projects.

Q: Where will the profits go?

A: After paying the costs of the project including administration, insurance and maintenance, the remaining money is then split amongst those in the community who have invested in the project. An excess will be planned in to allow for risks – where these do not materialise this will be directed to a new community fund.

This fund will be ring fenced through Eco Savvy for community projects on the island. The intention is that the community fund will be green and support the continuation and progression of the environmental work on Arran.

For further FAQs and more information on the project go to Eco Savvy’s website

If you would like to talk to any of the trustees on the steering group or find out how to get involved please email:

donald.ecosavvy@gmail.com

esther.ecosavvy@gmail.com

helen.ecosavvy@gmail.com

If you are interested in supporting the project and Eco Savvy, please consider becoming a member a Eco Savvy
For more details see here