In August of this year the DTI published a study on community benefit issues surrounding the development of wind farms, comparing approaches in the UK, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Spain. One of the interesting issues the study picks out is the fact that the community benefit funds with which we are familiar with in the UK do not exist in any of the other countries examined.
Outside the UK there is more focus on non cash benefits - local tax payments, jobs and manufacturing opportunities. It is perhaps also the case that the public perception of the benefits of green energy is also a factor, such that the pot of cash local communities in the UK have come to expect is not seen as necessary. However as many of the other issues wind farm developers have to deal with are different from the UK - e.g. the planning process, approach to EU procurement rules (which influences how much local job creation can be offered) and the maturity of the manufacturing industry - the European model to community benefit is not directly applicable in the UK.
The study makes a number of recommendations to the DTI which are being considered, including pursuing options for community ownership of windfarm developments. In our experience, steps away from a purely cash based approach are already being made by some developers, who are looking at new mechanisms allowing local communities to share in the long term benefits provided by ownership of wind turbines. Overall, the benefit to developers could be establishment of a uniform approach to community benefit which would enable them to streamline the process of negotiating with local communities and have some certainty as regards the level of contribution required.