Beatrice offshore project to provide social value windfall for UK communities

Money placed into a community fund to support the development of the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm off the coast of Scotland could create nearly £20m in social value for the communities involved in project, according to new analysis.

At £2.6bn, the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm in the Outer Moray Firth is one of the largest private infrastructure investments in Scotland. Once fully operational in 2019, Beatrice is estimated to add around £1.13bn to the UK GDP, with around £530m contributing directly to the Scottish Economy.

New research conducted by the project manager SSE, with assistance from NEF Consulting, has found that money pledged towards a “partnership fund” to ensure that local communities benefit from the project would have a social return on investment (SROI) of £3.21 for every £1 added to the fund.

The Beatrice Community Benefit fund will be worth a total of £34m over the lifetime of the windfarm, although £28m has already been marked for distribution through the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund to support the economic development of applicable areas. However, the remaining £6m is being administered by SSE’s Community Investment Team over a five-year period, and looks set to generate an almost £20m SROI over a five-year period.

The £6m spent by SSE will be split between communities in Highland (£4m) and Moray (£2m). The fund will focus on education, community resiliency and sustainable practices to boost local infrastructure, landscape, biodiversity, or heritage. The original £6m investment into these practices is estimated to create a wider value worth almost £20m in these areas.

Commenting on the findings, Scottish Renewables’ senior policy manager Lindsay Roberts said: “The benefits of renewables go far beyond clean energy generation. This report shows the contribution the Beatrice project alone will make to Scotland and the UK’s economy – as well as, more specifically, the Highland and Moray regions.

“Studies of this type give everyone – local people, politicians and industry – important information about green energy development, enabling them to see the value of this industry to our country.”

Financial windfall

Around 45% of the £2.6bn cost of Beatrice will come from the UK, with remaining expenditure on procurement and manufacturing sourced from outside the UK from bodies such as Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP).

One of the financial backers of Beatrice is Dutch multinational banking group ING. The company revealed that in the first two quarters of 2016 it had financed environmental and sustainability projects totalling €27.8bn. ING acted as joint bookrunner for the Beatrice project.

One fully operational, Beatrice will consist of 84 wind turbines. The 588MW development is expected to generate enough renewable wind energy to power roughly 450,000 households.

The development will also have an impact on UK and Scottish jobs. Construction investment into the project will support more than 18,100 years of full-time employment in the UK, of which around 5,800 would be located in Scotland.

In total, Britain now has more than 10GW of offshore wind capacity either operating, under construction or with Final Investment Decisions (FIDs) taken. RenewableUK expects that 10GW will power the equivalent of more than a quarter of UK households a year – more than 7.5m homes.

Matt Mace

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