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Concern over support cuts for community renewables

Lynne Whitelaw Environment Correspondent

Te move away from grant funding of renewable energy projects toward a system of financial incentives paid after the project is up and running is likely to make it more difficult for communities to find the upfront costs to finance developments, two community energy experts have told Holyrood. Former Green MSP Mark Ruskell and Community Energy Scotland chief executive Nicholas Gubbins said that cuts to grant schemes that were available from both the UK and Scottish Governments are likely to put communities off. Ruskell, who is now business development manager at Green Energy Net, a newly launched information exchange for those interested in renewable energy, said that while it was still early days and there were also financial incentives such as the

Feed-In Tariff being introduced, there are questions about how to fund projects in their initial stages. He said: “You’ve got to find the upfront capital costs and I think that can be an issue for communities who then have to seek commercial funding for projects. Projects need to be bankable, they need to be watertight in terms of how the project’s developed, there are risks that are involved in any project that are assessed in order to secure loan funding, so there is a need to get rid of some of the risk in the development process.” Gubbins added: “If a small

voluntary community group can’t raise the capital to start with because it may not be able to take out loans or it may not be confident to do so, then they’re not going to be taking forward a project. Our concern is the move to revenue payments risks losing a large number of groups out of the picture because they simply can’t raise a loan or don’t have the confidence to take out a loan. “It’s going to require a different approach.” Community Energy Scotland is now looking at a number of options in an effort to tackle the absence of grants. “For example, we’re now actively looking at whether we can provide a financing solution which removes those risks from a community group but still enables them to generate some income or to meet their building requirements, so we’re trying to pin down some support to effectively fill that gap that’s now arisen,” Gubbins explained.

Full story see page 52


Salmond backs trams inquiry Calls for a public inquiry into the handling of the Edinburgh trams project have received the endorsement of First Minister Alex Salmond. Recent figures revealed it would cost £750m to scrap the scheme, the original budget of which was £545m. It is now estimated that the total cost of completing a truncated version of the original plan could reach £1.4bn.

Swinney urges union patience Finance Secretary John Swinney has said public sector unions have no case for strike action over pension reforms as talks over the issue are still ongoing. Hundreds of thousands of civil servants across the UK will take action on 30 June over Treasury plans to increase worker payments. While Swinney opposes the plans, he said strike action would merely damage services.

Salmond: Scotland deserves 2012 boost Scotland should have been given its share of regeneration funding from the London 2012 Olympics, First Minister Alex Salmond has claimed. While it is understandable that London receives significant investment to prepare for the games, a proportional share of funding should have been awarded to other parts of the UK using the Barnett formula, he added.

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