New Borders Energy Agency to be established

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ENERGY in the Borders - be it renewable, the conservation of or management of it - will in future be the responsibility of the Borders Energy Agency, a new charity organisation.

The case for establishing the Borders Energy Agency was put to Scottish Borders councillors yesterday (Wednesday), who were told that the region is aiming to be a leader in sustainable energy. And the first step towards this is to create a one-stop shop for individuals, businesses, schools and community groups providing advice, information, education and training and support on all energy matters, while at the same time promoting renewable energy and energy conservation.

Both the UK and Scottish Governments are committed to developing a low carbon economy, and SBC’s chief executive Tracey Logan and their director of environment Rob Dickson support the idea of the region becoming a market leader.

In a report to councillors they said: “The Scottish Borders cannot delay in preparing for the inevitable move towards less carbon intensive activity, and must position itself to take advantage of this as an early adopter.”

Their vision is that: renewable energy businesses will locate themselves in the region; while others will be attracted to move here because all electricity is generated from renewable sources; a re-skilled workforce will have better job opportunities; and the low carbon energy produced by wind, hydro, ground source, waste and solar will all be done so without damaging the landscape. The expectation is that local communities will become more self sufficient and sustainable.

“The establishment of a Borders Energy Agency will support a range of council objectives, and it is intended that although the organisation will be wholly independent, it is important that the council should recognise, support and empower the Borders Energy Agency,” added Ms Logan and Rob Dickson.

“There are specific service areas which could in future be delivered jointly, including: fuel poverty/home energy advice; carbon reduction advice to communities; energy management advice on public buildings.”

Success of the agency will be judged by: the number of local companies entering the renewables market; the number of new jobs created, the training opportunities provided; the number of projects supported; the number of renewable installations; the number of individuals,businesses and community groups given advice; the number of education visits and events undertaken; and carbon reduction.

Funding of the Borders Energy Agency is yet to be finalised but the council is already talking to the main energy companies who operate wind farms in the region and asking for them to contribute funding in the same way that they do for communities - by providing funding for the period of the typical lifespan of a wind installation which is 25 years.

And there is an expectation that BEA will take a role in helping to ensure that more equitable arrangements are agreed between communities and wind farm developers.

Talks have also taken place with two banks specialising in renewables funding, plus national and local agencies and bids are also likely to be made to the Climate Challenge Fund and various EU programmes to help fund the agency. The BEA will also earn income from the services it will provide to business and fees from conducting energy audits, providing training, acting as an agent for other organisations.

The business plan for BEA concludes: “The drive towards a low carbon economy, renewable energy and energy conservation is certain to continue and BEA should prove to be a model which can be transferred to other areas across the country and to similar agencies across Europe and beyond.

“Development will necessarily be linked to the amount of funding available.