Beyond Green is excited to announce that we will be leading facilitation and engagement for the COBEN Local Energy Plan project. Along with our collaborators, we are working with communities in Brae, Shetland, and Drumnadrochit on the shore of Loch Ness, to create plans for how the community generates, consumes and stores energy.

We are excited to help the two communities ease the transition into a low carbon future. Local people will take part in engagement workshops which aim to identify their specific energy needs, while strongly connecting them with the process and providing ownership of the outcomes.

What is COBEN?
The COmmunity BENefits of Civic Energy (COBEN) focuses on the benefits from community-owned renewable energy sources. By creating local community energy plans that are based on whole system approaches, communities are encouraged to connect together all aspects of energy. COBEN is supported through the European Regional Development Fund (Interreg) and the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) as part of a wider approach to develop low carbon energy projects. The European Regional Development Fund has selected six pilot locations in the North Sea region, with the Highlands and Islands being the only UK area. Brae and Drumnadrochit, plus Barra and Vatersay, and Oban were selected as the four locations to pilot the development of community-led local energy plans.   Who is involved?
Our team includes all of the BGs as well as collaborative partners: Osbert Lancaster, Pam Candea, Chris Asensio and Angela Gardner. Check out our partners' involvement and experience below.
Osbert Lancaster - Facilitator, Capacity building and strategy consultant
Pamela Candea - Facilitator, Capacity building and environmental consultant
Chris Asensio - Facilitator, Energy and climate change consultant
Angela Gardner - Communication consultant

We are operating under the Energy Saving Trust which is part of the consortium of Local Energy Scotland. Local Energy Scotland manages CARES and involves the organisations shown below.

What is civic energy?
The COBEN project is developed around the advancement of civic energy in rural areas such as the Highlands and Islands. According to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), civic energy is decentralised renewable energy that is at least half owned/operated by the community. The Highlands and Islands has been an excellent example, demonstrating how civic energy can work for communities - from community-owned wind turbines to micro-heating systems. Civic energy relies on creating value that stays in the community and reinvesting that value to create more civic energy opportunities.

The Scottish Government has committed to ensuring that more than half of all new renewable energy projects by 2020 will be community shared. The Government’s commitment shows the importance of civic energy, and with the shared ownership growing naturally, the 50% goal is looking confident.

How is civic energy achieved?
Civic energy is achieved through creating a Local Energy Plan (LEP) and implementing the proposed solutions. LEPs revolve around using a whole system approach to understand how the community consumes, generates and stores energy. By forward planning, communities can contribute to Scotland’s 2050 low carbon future.

Our objective is to connect with the community members, to understand their needs by asking the right questions, and to begin formulating the solutions. This will allow for the first LEPs to be implemented by July 2018. Similar local energy ideas can be found in the Burntisland community energy master plan.

What are the community benefits?
Rural areas such as the Highlands and Islands can see massive benefits from community-owned renewable energy, as being isolated from large cities, they have a greater opportunity to implement decentralised energy systems. By making energy generation local, communities can increase resilience to rising energy prices while reducing their carbon impact and improving air quality. Communities such as Fintry, Barra, Fetlar and Garmony (to name a few) have all had success in integrating local renewable energy. Benefits can include profit sharing, discounts, improved infrastructure and assurance from climate risks.

COBEN’s alignment with Scotland’s strategy
The transition towards low carbon energy generation is in full swing, as Scotland commits a further a further £80m towards green energy growth. The low carbon direction Scotland is taking can be seen in Scotland’s Energy Strategy, which outlines a smarter local energy model as one of three core principles. COBEN will provide support for the Government’s plans to increase renewable electricity capacity from 9.3GW to 17GW by 2030, leading to 50% renewable energy.

What’s next?
Battling through the snow, Project Director Paul Adderley and Facilitator Osbert Lancaster made it to Drumnadrochit on 16 January for their first steering group meeting. They were welcomed by this wintery scene on the morning of the meeting! The Brae steering group meeting took place on the 22 January - Paul and Project Management, Communication and Facilitator Lisa Bertrand enjoyed Shetland’s landscape (as seen below) after an interesting overnight ferry crossing! We are looking forward to getting to know the communities in Brae and Drumnadrochit. Check out our news page and social media to keep updated on the project For more information on Local Energy Plan check Local Energy Scotland website.