Further information on renewable energy developments
Will developments on the national forest estate be subject to normal planning/consent procedures?
Yes. Developing renewables on the national forest estate will always be carried out in a manner sensitive to the environment. All projects will need to go through the full planning process and will be subject to environmental scrutiny.
Is there a conflict of interest between Forestry Commission Scotland's (FCS) role as developer of renewable energy projects and its regulatory role?
There is a clear separation of functions. Any developments on the national forest estate will be subject to agreed policies, which include the Scottish Government’s Policy on the control of woodland removal and the Guidance to FCS staff on implementing it. FCS will adopt an exemplar approach when applying these policies to the national forest estate.
Does Forestry Commission Scotland have the necessary expertise to develop renewable energy projects on the national forest estate?
FCS will continue to work closely with the private sector. The powers in the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill, allow FCS to form companies and establish joint ventures. We have appointed a number of staff within FCS to manage these partnerships.
What has changed in the way Forestry Commission Scotland manages developments?
In general, the traditional approach was to invite developers to bid for options to develop single projects. Leases were negotiated once the developer had secured planning permission and other consents. This worked reasonably well, but, given the scale of the potential, a more streamlined approach is bringing better financial returns, effective and efficient management of legal processes and improved opportunities for communities to benefit from these developments.
FCS is also working with communities on self-development of a number of hydro and wind schemes.
Will development of renewable energy projects divert FCS from its core forest-related tasks?
No. There is a small, specialist team focused on developing renewable energy generation projects.
Will FCS be establishing joint ventures for biomass related projects?
No. This is treated differently because energy companies compete with other wood processors for raw material. As a dominant producer of wood in Scotland, FCS will continue to sell wood on the open market, without becoming directly involved in down-stream activities.
How do wind farms and hydro schemes deliver climate change benefits if trees have to be cut down or peat is disturbed?
Decisions on woodland removal and peat disturbance will, where appropriate, be informed by Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The Scottish Government's Policy on Control of Woodland Removal and associated Guidance to FCS staff on implementing it sets out the criteria for determining the acceptability of woodland removal and the requirement, if any, for compensatory planting. Wherever appropriate, FCS will seek to maintain woodland conditions around turbines, subject to consideration of the impact of tree growth on turbine performance and energy yield.
A joint working group involving Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Renewables, SNH, SEPA and representatives from the wind industry has published a guidance note on good practice during windfarm construction.
The Scottish Government have also published guidance on calculating net carbon impacts on peat.
How much money will be raised?
The annual net income from wind and hydro power could reach £10 million per year by 2020. We have entered into an arrangement with our development partners that offers good value to the taxpayer. We are using their skill and expertise and their investment to create renewable energy generation opportunities. Also, we have negotiated terms for community benefits which have become industry standard and the opportunity for communities to invest in developments.
Will net income from wind and hydro power be reinvested in forestry?
The income will go to FCS and help fund its other programmes, for example on the national forest estate and through grant support for private sector woodlands. This may reduce the amount of taxpayer support required for the wider public benefits obtained from the national forest estate.
What about securing community benefits?
We want to maximise opportunities for communities to benefit from renewable energy generation, and there are several options, depending upon local circumstances.
Local communities have already registered interest in leasing land through the National Forest Land Scheme for community scale developments in line with the opportunities offered during 2012. The first completed scheme on the estate, at Stank Glen near Callander, began generating power in November 2014. This has been replaced for new applications by the Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS) launched in January 2017.
The community in Morvern is part of a Joint Venture in a hydro scheme that is now generating power, others have taken up the commercial opportunity that was available in 2014.