The scale of community benefit

It is a growing question across the energy industry. But how should communities who accept major infrastructure be offered to benefit?

The infrastructure challenge facing the UK is the greatest in many years. The Chancellor’s speech and the infrastructure package announced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury this week both highlighted the funding necessary and the scale of what must be achieved in the coming decade.

For energy this will mean new generation capacity, not just wind farms but new nuclear too and shale gas, arguably one of the more controversial options for our energy portfolio. The fact is none of these are a silver bullet and so we will need to, in most cases, see a mixture of technologies. There is also a question of the network infrastructure to support this new generation and the conversations taking place with communities that will be impacted.

In recent events, Energy Minister Michael Fallon and Secretary of State Ed Davey have discussed this area delicately. Speaking about shale, Fallon explained the need for concerns of communities to be address and we have seen the commitment for them to benefit from £100,000 where exploration takes place and 1% of the money that is made if production happens.

Ed Davey has been keen to highlight DECC’s community ownership of energy consultation and sees a real role for benefit to feature in that too. What better way to enable people to get the most from the infrastructure near them than to know that the when the turbine blades are turning it is making them money rather than a company.

It will be part of an interesting conversation, one that requires a coherent position from Government and industry. There appear to be no easy or quick solutions, but what is clear is the heightened sense of awareness amongst the public and a need for industry to speak directly to those in communities. Community benefit, whether as ownership or compensation, may have its parameters set by Government but it is likely to be up to the community to define the type and non-monetary scale of what they receive.


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