The aim of the proposed community energy loan fund is to maximise the benefits of renewable energy for communities, not only in terms of access to locally produced low-carbon energy but in terms of social cohesion and economic development. Co-operatives are one of the business models that applicants will be able to use.
Recently, I had a meeting with the co-operative-owned group Energy4All, which expressed to me concerns about restrictions on community-owned co-ops in relation to the community renewables implementation group. I therefore welcome the minister’s answer, but I ask him to clarify that groups such as Energy4All will have access to the fund. Also, will he agree to meet me and representatives of community co-ops to discuss how best to promote the use of co-operatives in the energy sector?
I am certainly willing to have that meeting, as it would build on the many other meetings that we have had across Scotland to open up the opportunities that renewables offer to build the fabric of and social cohesion within communities. As for Energy4All, our intention is that co-ops will be eligible for the fund subject to similar eligibility criteria that apply to other applicants, chief among which is that such moves demonstrate a level of benefit to the wider local community. I think that that sets the scene rather well for the conversation that I will have with Mr Kelly and Energy4All.