The Scottish Government has published its draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, which sets out key ambitions for a just energy transition that benefits communities across Scotland and protects our environment and energy security. Additional sectoral Just Transition Plans for Buildings and Construction, Land Use and Agriculture and Transport are expected to be published within the first half of 2023.
The Strategy includes commitments to increasing access to affordable energy, prioritising those in or at risk of fuel poverty. It also includes a commitment to maximising community benefits from, and ownership (including shared ownership) of, energy projects, and providing regional and local opportunities to participate in a net zero energy future.
The fact that Scotland has diverse communities with differing needs is recognised, and the report states that “by 2030, regions and communities will be empowered to participate in the energy transition in a way that meets their needs including increasing the number of community owned energy projects…. By 2030 the costs and benefits of the growth in our clean electricity generation will be shared equitably across society”. How this will be achieved is not specified; it will be important that community consultation on local issues is included in the final version of the strategy.
Specific programmes for rural and island communities are also highlighted, with Community Energy Scotland’s Carbon Neutral Islands project being mentioned, as well as £30 million of loans and grants for people on lower incomes in remote and island communities to switch to zero emissions vehicles. The need for investment in electricity infrastructure against rising costs of constraints is recognised, as well as the importance that charging arrangements are reformed as “in a net zero world it is counterproductive to care more about where generation is situated than what type of generation it is”.
“It is refreshing to see a draft Scottish Government strategy with communities at its heart. The recognition that a just energy transition needs to meet the needs of different communities and geographies is also particularly welcomed. We will now engage in the consultation process to ensure that communities are not only seen as key beneficiaries of the strategy but also as key actors in its realisation. Agencies such as Heat and Energy Scotland should work in partnership with local groups to reach the most vulnerable people and mobilise communities to help to achieve the Scottish Government’s targets on every aspect of energy, from reduction in energy demand, installation of additional renewable energy capacity and behavioural change towards public and active transport.
“Additional support for communities, both in terms of finance and capacity building, will also be required if the Scottish Government is to achieve its targets on active travel and energy efficiency, and especially its 2030 target of 2GW of community and locally owned energy, having missed the 2020 target.”Zoe Holliday, CEO of Community Energy Scotland
The full document is available on the Scottish Government website and includes 50 consultation questions. Consultation responses should be submitted by Tuesday 4 April 2023. If you would like to contribute your feedback to CES’s consultation response please get in touch. info(at)communityenergyscotland.org.uk