Communities near big energy schemes should gain new ‘benefits’, government says

People who live near large new energy generating infrastructure should gain “community benefits” like the cash being proposed for residents near new pylons, the Scottish Government says.

The call to widen benefits follows recommendations in summer to compensate households near huge new 55-metre “super pylons”.

The SSEN upgrade affects communities from the north coast, south through the Highlands, across the north-east, the Mearns and Angus to the central belt.

Work in England led to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s decision in November to cut up to £1,000 from annual bills for people near new pylons.

His plan affects “transmission infrastructure”, with rules decided in Westminster.

Scottish Government energy minister Gillian Martin, the MSP for Aberdeenshire East, wants the UK to go further.

‘Energy generation is crucial’

“Under the announced proposals, people who live in communities near network infrastructure will be guaranteed community benefits but people who live in communities near energy generation infrastructure will not,” she wrote in a letter to UK energy secretary Claire Coutinho.

“This is despite the fact that energy generation is just as crucial a part of our energy transition as network.”

The extension could mean windfarms and other developments such as battery storage are covered. The SNP Government also wants to discuss how to extend community benefit from offshore wind.

Gillian Martin MSP wrote to the UK Government.

Ms Martin said the energy system is fundamental to environment targets.

“The people and businesses in communities near all parts of this energy system – the developments which produce renewable electricity as well as the network infrastructure that transports it – should see the benefit from our abundant energy resources,” she added.

First Minister Humza Yousaf heard concerns about the impact of development in rural Scotland on Monday.

He was in East Lothian with his team of ministers to listen to concerns from residents as part of a regular touring programme, which last took in Inveraray in Argyll.

Last month, campaigners opposed to the route of super-pylons in the north-east celebrated changes to the £20 billion plan.

Pylons re-routed

Original plans for a line of super-pylons across Angus and the Mearns. Image: SSEN.

The Kintore to Tealing 400kV line – covering Aberdeenshire and Angus – will now be placed further from Forfar. A substation at Fiddes in the Mearns will move to a new site in Fetteresso Forest near an existing substation.

Further north at Blackhillock in Moray, the proposed new substation site is moving to the east of Keith.

SSEN says 400 new employees will be hired in a year and calls its scheme one of the biggest investment programmes in the north of Scotland for a century.

Communities across the north stand to gain more than £100m of community benefit funding and money off bills for those located closest to new infrastructure, the company says.

Rob McDonald, managing director of SSEN Transmission, said: “Our investments will enable thousands of skilled, green jobs across the region, placing multi-million-pound contracts with local supply chain partners and investing in community funds – creating billions of economic value for Scotland.”

A spokesperson for the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: “We want communities to benefit from hosting net zero infrastructure in their local area.

“That’s why we consulted on benefits for network transmission infrastructure, publishing our response in November which means households in these communities could receive £1,000 a year off their electricity bills.

“We have also separately consulted on improvements to the system of community benefits for onshore wind in England and will publish the response shortly.”

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