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Community Renewable Energy Toolkit



Who is this toolkit for?

This toolkit has been produced to help community groups to develop renewable energy projects. 'Groups' may be an informal collection of like-minded individuals wishing to start something in their community; or may be well-established, constituted organisations linked to a community facility (e.g. village hall or community centre) or with a wider purpose (e.g. Development Trust).

It does not assume any detailed knowledge of the topic and so allows you to decide where to start - whether this means looking at the basics of energy generation and use, or at specific detail of a particular renewable energy technology.

The structure of the toolkit - three steps

The toolkit is designed to allow you to work through what your community's options will be and point you in the direction of further help and information to allow you to take a project forward.

It is structured according to 3 steps:

  • Your current position: chose which section is most relevant to your requirements;
  • Information on your chosen topic ( Annex 2 includes case studies to support and help explain this);
  • More detailed and supporting information on your chosen topic is in Annex 1. This along with links to further information in the body of the document will enable you to determine your need for further advice and, most importantly, be in a position to manage the provision of that advice and make decisions on it.

Community needs

It is a good idea to start by developing an understanding of what the needs of your community are. These may be obvious - for example the community hall or centre may be cold, difficult or expensive to heat and as a consequence, people may be reluctant to use it. There may be concerns that through increasing heat and power expenses it will become unsustainable to run and will fall into disrepair and/or that the community will suffer by not having an available meeting place. Alternatively, investment in new community buildings may be under investigation, so now is an ideal opportunity to build in renewable energy provision at the outset to help reduce long-term running costs. In addition, the community might want to actively participate in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.

It may also be that the community needs an ongoing source of income to help address critical community needs and there may be a source of renewable energy nearby which could be used for this purpose. There may even be plans for a private renewable development near to the community from which the community could benefit.

Whatever the specific requirement is, it is highly likely that a renewable energy project could be taken forward and that this will bring a number of benefits to a community. For example, by equipping a community centre with a renewable energy system, running costs could be reduced, the centre would be warm, well used and its carbon emissions would be reduced.

Your community's requirements

Look at the following headings and decide which one best describes your current position. You can then begin by going to the section of the guide most relevant to your requirements. You can come back to the table in the light of your new position and move onto another section.

Your current position



1. Basics

Cold hall - high bills

2. Energy efficient buildings &

3. Technologies

Adjacent community buildings/houses need heating

4. District heating

No grid connection

5. Off grid solutions

May generate more electricity than needed

6. Generating and selling electricity

Commercial wind farm locally

7. Securing benefit from commercial schemes

Group structure

8. Organisation and consultation


9. Financing your project


Annex 1 : Further Information

Other communities' experiences

Annex 2: Case Studies

A range of possibilities

Over the last few years an increasing number of community groups have discovered that it is possible to use renewable energy to benefit their community. There has also been a rapid growth in the range and quality of renewable energy technologies available to generate heat and power. There are now hundreds of such projects across Scotland which are up and running. They range from micro wind turbines to solar thermal to hydropower installations which help meet community energy needs. There may be one near you that would be worth going to see.

Help is at hand

The Scottish Government funds a network of development officers covering the whole of Scotland through the Community And Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES). All legally constituted community organisations and non-profit distributing organisations are eligible to apply. The aim of CARES is to provide communities with a range of support and advice to develop renewable energy projects from initial interest to ongoing support once projects are complete. For more information, contact Community Energy Scotland Ltd which delivers the scheme on the Government's behalf.