Unlike traditional energy generation (by burning fossil fuels such as gas or coal, for example), renewable energy is generated from natural sources that are continually replenished, such as sunlight, wind or waves.

When fossil fuels are burned to meet our demand for energy, they emit carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas that’s causing climate change. Scotland is committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2045. Local energy will play an important role in helping Scotland reach its net zero targets.

The Scottish Government’s Scottish Energy Strategy sets its vision for the future energy system in Scotland, and has set a target for Scotland to generate 2GW of locally owned energy by 2030.

The Scottish Government’s local energy policy statement contains a set of key principles and associated outcomes that represent the values it wishes to see adopted. You can also read more about the local energy policy principles and how they guide CARES support.

What is local energy?

Community energy is the delivery of community-led renewable energy projects, whether wholly owned and/or controlled by communities, or through partnerships with commercial or public sector partners. The Scottish Government views community-led energy projects as a priority within the wider local energy landscape.

Local energy is more wide ranging, involving a range of different organisations (public, private, and community sector), who are delivering an energy service/project for the benefit of local people operating within a defined geographical area.

Local energy systems are ones which find ways to link the supply and demand of energy services within an area across electricity, heat and transport, delivers real value to everyone in local areas, and support the growth of vibrant, net zero local economies.

Shared ownership is when a community group makes an investment in a commercially owned renewable energy project. The community portion of this development would be considered community owned.

Community benefits are voluntary packages of benefits (often in the form of funds) that renewable energy businesses provide to communities as part of a commercially owned renewable energy project.

Local energy plans look at a community’s existing and future energy needs (in terms of power, heat and transport) and identify priorities for action as well as opportunities to help the community take practical action to support its current and future energy system developments. Local energy plans are developed by local people including local residents, businesses and community organisations, and are created in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the local authority, the distribution network operator and local generators.

How we can help

We’re Scotland’s one-stop-shop for all your local energy needs. We give communities, businesses and other organisations advice and funding in all aspects of local, renewable energy.

We administer the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES). CARES offers a range of financial support and advice to community groups, organisations and businesses to get local energy projects up and running.

CARES also supports communities interested in shared ownership of a renewable energy project, and communities that have been approached by commercial developers regarding community benefits packages.

Our advice is free and impartial, and we will support you at every stage – from initial planning, through development and funding applications, right up to and beyond the launch. We can also direct you to other useful sources of funding and support.

Our goal is to support communities to engage with, participate in, and benefit from the energy transition to net zero emissions.