This month we are pleased to feature a guest blog from Katie Little from Community Shares Scotland. Read on to find out more about Katie’s thoughts on the role of community enterprise in the race to zero .
With the COP26 conference starting next week and an increasing focus on a community wealth building agenda, the role that community enterprise can play in shaping the future of our just transition to net zero is becoming increasingly evident. Recent conferences from the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme and the Development Trusts Association Scotland have reinforced this, focusing on community-led climate action and featuring case studies highlighting the breadth of action that is going on on the ground in communities across Scotland.
Since Community Shares Scotland was launched 7 years ago, we have supported dozens of successful community share offers. In that time, no sector has seen more investment than community owned hydro, driven by schemes such as Harlow Hydro and Cumhacd Shlèite, who want to support sustainable economic, environmental and social development in their communities. By generating clean, green energy these renewable energy projects have been able to use the income generated through electricity sales for community benefit, in addition to raising awareness of environmental issues and community ownership. Due to a lack of accessible land and the current limited profitability of such schemes (as a result of the Feed in Tariffs coming to an end) these kinds of community enterprises aren’t possible for every community. So what are other Scottish community businesses doing?
During Climate Fringe Week, Community Shares Scotland highlighted some of the other enterprises that are playing their part in the just transition.
Isle of Eigg Brewery is the first brewery in Scotland to be wholly owned as a community benefit society, and their ethos is to be as low carbon as possible. They hope to achieve this through a variety of methods including installing solar panels and battery technology to harness renewable energy; creating self-sufficiency throughout the brewing and fermenting processes with heat generated from brewing fed back into the system as well as creating local jobs in the process.
Loch Ness hub, a community owned tourism hub which provides information, tours and baggage transfers for tourists visiting Glen Urquhart and Loch Ness are championing a greener, slower tourism approach. They are developing active travel paths in the area; introducing bike and e-bike hire, expanding the EV charging network as well as introducing car sharing schemes.
So what might be the next trend for community enterprise? A recent community share offer was launched by Manchester based People Powered Retrofit, a not-for-profit, community energy co-operative designed to help households source reliable retrofit services, creating greener, more energy efficient homes in Greater Manchester. With an estimated 50,000 non-domestic buildings and up to 1 million domestic homes in Scotland needing to be decarbonised as we transition to net zero, there could be an opportunity for communities to take advantage of this bottom up approach to meeting the carbon neutral challenge.
People Powered Retrofit demonstrates the possibilities for community enterprise on a bigger scale, but there are other opportunities for community groups looking to establish a profitable community business and using the community shares model is just one method to do so. It could be a community EV charge point, or peer to peer car sharing scheme. Or if an asset is already owned by the community, upgrading to become more carbon-friendly could create long-term sustainability. A recent webinar by the Community Ownership Support Service provides examples of how to do just that.
If you have an idea for a business that will benefit your community and maybe even the environment, Community Shares Scotland, together with our partners the Plunkett Foundation and Co-operative Development Scotland will be hosting an inspirational webinar event on the 24th November. We will have presentations from successful community enterprises as well as a Q&A with our staff so why not register for a ticket and see how community businesses can create fairer, more sustainable and more interesting places to live.