Maitland Mackie launches community wind power campaign

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Published: February 2012
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UPDATE: 9th February 2012: Forestry Commission Scotland sells off its renewable assets

The campaign to raise awareness of passing over the public assets of Scotland into the hands of major international corporations gathers pace.  Maitland and colleagues have written to The Auditor General for Scotland seeking an investigation into how Forestry Commission Scotland could lease out its massive wind assets to just 4 companies for relatively low returns despite being under an obligation to maximise its returns for the benefit of the taxpayer.  The deal, they claim, only generates a fraction of the revenue that could have come back to the people of Scotland and the wider UK.

The counter argument, made by FCS, is that (1) the resources required to develop these assets effectively are significant and most of the companies, with some notable exceptions like SSE, are not in a position to take the risks; (2) Even if FCS had been more creative by dividing up Scotland into smaller plots and finding smaller players, that still means the benefits are likely to go to the investors behind these players - who may not be based in the UK; and (3) EU legislation does not allow us to rule out bids from other EU companies so everyone needs to be treated equally.

At GEN we accept that the options available to FCS once they'd decided to go down this route are limited.  However we believe this was a major opportunity to encourage smaller players to grow and flourish.  FCS have been myopic in their approach and went for what was the 'easy option'.  It is typical of a public agency opting for a low risk solution to a high value proposition.  If a thorough appraisal of all the development options available to them was undertaken it should be published publicly so it can be scrutinised.  Discussions with enterprise agencies and central government should have considered alternative options.  The wider economic and social benefit of enabling a much more significant number of smaller companies and organisations to get involved should have been actively considered.  This would be far more likely to generate benefits to the UK.  Rather than 4 areas, there could have been 20.  We would also have wanted serious consideration of setting up a Scotland wide Community Bond, available for anyone in Scotland to invest in and generate a relatively low risk, yet highly competitive return.  This could have funded a great deal of the capital required for development of the wind projects.  It could also have allowed the citizens of Scotland to invest as little as £100 in their own national land estate - that would have been a creative solution.  Such an approach would have given Scotland plc an infinitely more significant financial boost.

If you feel strongly and would like to write to the Auditor General on this matter his details are:

Robert Black, Audit General for Scotland, 110 George Street, Edinburgh  EH2 4LH.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Farming champion and food entrepreneur Dr Maitland Mackie launches a campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of on-shore wind energy to local communities and businesses in rural Scotland.

In his new report, The Real Rationale for Renewable Energy he makes a passionate case for on-shore wind farms to develop further in Scotland and calls for local authorities to speed up planning and for communities to be allowed in on the ownership of wind farms.

Maitland Mackie Real Rationale Renewables Report

Dr Mackie bases his arguments on his experience of running three wind turbines on the family farm of Westertown, Rothienorman, which has greatly reduced dependence on the national grid for electricity for the farm and his ice cream factory. 

He makes a number of recommendations in the report to keep the wealth generated by wind energy in the local rural sector.  He suggests bodies with large tracts of land acting in the public interest, such as the Forestry Commission, Crown Estates and the National Trust for Scotland should be proactively letting out potential renewable energy sites to small independent energy developers and local communities. He has also accused the Forestry Commission of a “colossal and unnecessary give away” of a potential annual income of £300 million by giving four multi-national companies the right to develop wind energy on commission land. 

Mark Jennison from GEN interviewed Maitland at the All-Energy 2011 (May) to find out more...