CARES Conference - did we see you there?
Thank you to everyone who came along to the CARES conference on the 5th March. It was a great day and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. We would love to hear your thoughts on the conference here, if you didn't get a chance to fill in the evaluation form on the day.
All the slides from the day are available in pdf format here.
The community benefits session was an opportunity to share experiences to date, both good and bad practice. Delegates agreed that identifying the community remains a difficult step in the process, but key to overcoming difficulties is improved communication from as early as possible in the process. The session included talks from AES Wind, Carrick Futures and Foundation Scotland and their perspectives. A summary of the table discussions is available here. The Scottish Government Good Practice Principles may also be of relevance.
Over 70 participants attended the ‘working towards finance workshop’ facilitated by Local Energy Scotland, Santander, Scottish investment Bank and Ricardo AEA. Participants got a chance to ‘ask the experts’ questions about working towards financial issues pertinent to their project and also learn from others attending the workshop. Some common themes of discussion included due diligence process and financial close, becoming finance ready, sourcing finance for community investment opportunities and the tools that CARES can provide to support groups through the process.
Simon Morris, Senior Consultant at Ricardo AEA said:
The development of a renewable project is a rewarding process with many challenges. Every decision that is made along the way, should be evidence based and the evidence recorded. The Finance Ready tool developed by Local Energy Scotland is an ideal framework for collecting that evidence and will enable you to develop a solid business case to take to potential investors for raising finance. The Local Energy Scotland team has a wealth of knowledge and experience that should be used to support you in the development of your project.
Gregory Vaughan Morris, Principal Economist at Ricardo AEA said,
Use the CARES Project Finance Model early on to understand how profitable your project could be and use it to run sensitivities to answer questions such as (a) what happens if energy yields are less than predicted, (b) what happens if there is FiT degression? Then, when you start speaking to financiers use the tool to analyse the impact of different offers, paying particular attention to up front due diligence fees as due diligence on community energy projects can be significant.
The Forestry Workshops were well attended with 46 over both workshops. There was a good introductory session with contributions from Local Energy Scotland, Scottish Investment Bank, Forestry Commission Scotland and Mull and Iona Community Trust. The sessions were dynamic with a good level of interaction and information exchange between agency stakeholders and the audiences. Good introductions and contacts were made with follow-up community group visits planned to advance project ideas.
The ‘Lessons Shared Workshop’ was an eye-opener – as Euan Scott of Barra & Vatersay Wind Energy Ltd, Calum MacDonald of Point and Sandwick Development Trust, Robert Allen of Callandar, Peter Muir of Coigach, Andrew Stewart of Marshill Farm and Richard Lockett of Dingwall Wind Co-op shared some of their experiences with the other attendees. Local Energy Scotland delegates had the opportunity to ask pertinent questions and to take part in a lively discussion which offered insight into the reality of developing a community owned energy project. A diverse range of topics were discussed, including leasing; the importance of securing land agreements early; environmental designations; planning; urban opportunities; funding gaps; competition from the private sector; FiT degression; policy; access to sites; capacity building benefits of in-house project management; local energy networks and grid innovation.
A recurring theme was the difficulty in accessing consultants and advisors. This is something that Local Energy Scotland is addressing through the development of a framework of contractors. The first frameworks to be appointed will be for financial and legal services - watch this space.
If you have further questions for the speakers or Local Energy Scotland, please let us know.
The Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme is an important and successful initiative which is supporting our ambitious 2020 targets for locally generated renewable energy.