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Home / Latest News / Wind industry signs up to declaration on community benefits

Wind industry signs up to declaration on community benefits

Developers and operators of onshore wind farms in Wales took a step towards shoring up public support yesterday by signing a declaration committing them to help secure long-term benefits for the communities that host wind farms.

The long-awaited declaration is an attempt to widen the practice of delivering community benefits which are estimated to be worth more than £600,000 a year to local people across Wales.

The wind industry in Wales, headed by industry body RenewableUK Cymru, has been working closely with the Welsh Government to develop the declaration and the proposals within it.

The declaration is described as “a commitment from the developers to ensure a consistent and best practice approach to the way they engage with communities and to ensure that economic and community benefits are maximised.”

Developers also committed themselves to make sure communities have access to the best possible advice when a  community benefits scheme is being set up and administered.

The initial signatories of the declaration are Amegni, REG Wind Power, RES, RWE Npower Renewables, SSE, Tegni Cymru Cyf, Vattenfall, West Coast Energy and RenewableUK Cymru.

More developers are expected to sign the declaration in the coming weeks.

As part of the declaration, developers have agreed to work together in areas where there is more than one wind farm so that the community can get the greatest benefits.

There will also be a greater focus on delivering benefits on a regional scale and securing extra funding where possible.

Deputy director of RenewableUK Cymru, Llywelyn Rhys said: “The declaration is a first for the wind industry in Wales. It is a promise to Welsh communities by wind farm developers that they will work with them to maximise the positive long-term impacts that community benefit funds will bring to the local areas and wider region.

“The principle of community benefits is vitally important to the viability and ethos of the wind energy industry in Wales.

“This is an opportunity for the industry to build on its history of engagement and contributions and ensure that communities are empowered to make investment decisions that reflect their priorities.

“The aim was to develop a declaration that would be both transparent and aid sustainable development within these communities. We also want to make sure that the benefits are used in an efficient and strategic way that results in a durable and long lasting legacy.”

A community benefit register for Wales is now being developed, which will ensure greater transparency and probity as everyone will be able to see and track the impact of benefits to communities and to the wider economy.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “I welcome this clear commitment by the onshore wind industry in Wales to maximise long-term community and economic benefits for communities which host onshore wind developments, through promoting transparency and full and early engagement with those communities.

“The Welsh Government is committed to ensuring that communities affected by energy developments genuinely see the benefits of those developments. This declaration is a way of bringing tangible benefits to communities across Wales which host wind projects.”

A study by RenewableUK Cymru last year found that 80% of onshore wind farms in Wales contributed to a community benefit fund. The value of their contributions came to just under £624,000 in 2011.

The size of individual contributions varied tremendously. The people of Neath Port Talbot received £175,000 from the 26MW Maesgwyn wind farm developed by Pennant Walters, while Cefn Croes delivered £72,240 to its local community.

At the other end of the scale RWE npower renewables paid £2,500 from its Taff Ely wind farm to Community Foundation Wales.

Fixed annual payments are the preferred method of making a contribution, although these are often index-linked.

Another popular method is to pay a given amount per MW of installed capacity. Cefn Croes, for example, pays out £1,000 per MW and Carno 2 £2,000. Again, these are index-linked.

Bro Dyfi Community Renewables pays out between 5% and 10% of its profits to its community partners under a joint ownership arrangement.

RenewableUK Cymru identified 34 separate bodies that received community benefit payments. Just under half were foundations and trusts while another third were town and community councils.

In four cases, donations went directly to local community projects and in three to charities. Other recipients included social enterprises, private companies, local authorities and one-off donees.

In Mid Wales a not-for-profit company, Windfall, has been set up to disburse money from energy generators. The money is used to fund energy saving and renewable energy systems such as solar thermal, photovoltaic and wood energy.

Householders, farmers, schools, small businesses and communities can all benefit from the fund.

Also in Mid Wales, the Carno Community Trust Fund offers bursaries for students, sponsorship of local sports and hobby clubs and training for community organisations.

 

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