We’re pleased to showcase the speakers attending the CARES Conference 2023. Read on to learn more about our speakers and their background.

Keynote speaker

Gillian Martin is the Minister for Energy and the Environment at the Scottish Government. Ms Martin will deliver a keynote speech about the Scottish Government’s ambitions and support for community energy policy and CARES going forward.

Ms Martin lectured in television production at North East Scotland College and ran her own video production company prior to her role as an MSP. She also designed safety courses for the energy industry and was the manager of an emergency media response team for companies operating in the North Sea for 10 years. Ms Martin was elected as a Member of the Scottish Parliament to represent Aberdeenshire East in 2016 and was appointed Minister for Energy and the Environment in March 2023.

A picture of Gillian Martin, Minister for Energy and the Environment, smiling at the camera


Morning panel: Inspiring Community Engagement and Action

Dr Ria Dunkley is a Senior Lecturer (Geography, environment and sustainability) at the University of Glasgow. She will be discussing the collaborative community research process which they are following in a five-year Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) project aimed at advancing responses to the climate and biodiversity crisis in Glasgow.

Dr Dunkley specialises in ecopedagogy as a route to understanding the climate crisis and to empower individuals, communities and organisations to initiate sustainable solutions. She is currently leading the Community Collaboration work within GALLANT, (£10.2 m) based within the Centre for Sustainable Solutions and funded by the NERC. She is co-chair of the European CIVIS hub for Climate, Energy and Environment, Associate Director of the Centre for Sustainable Solutions and Co-lead for the College of Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Research Theme “Challenges in Changing Cities”.

Dr Ria Dunkley smiling


Jennifer James is an Education Officer for Awel Aman Tawe. She will discuss the story of the Awel Coop, its community owned wind turbines and Egni Coop and its solar panels. She will talk through the We are Energy Warriors project which engages pupils in Wales in climate change and energy reduction learning and thinking activities.

Jen is a qualified English teacher and a Chartered Librarian. Jen inspired pupils to read with confidence and vigour which resulted in devising innovative projects. This led to her working on the National Literacy Trust’s Premier League Reading Stars Cymru programme. A passion for social justice and climate change awareness led Jen to work for Oxfam as Global Citizenship Education Advisor Cymru.  Now Education Officer for Awel Aman Tawe, she brings citizenship, creative arts and science together to inspire and empower pupils across South Wales with the We are Energy Warriors education programme.

A cartoon style drawing of Energy Warrior's logo. It shows a person flying towards wind turbines.


Damien Frame is a Knowledge Exchange Associate and GRC Programme Manager at the University of Strathclyde. Damien will draw on Strathclyde’s long-standing partnerships with NGOs in Malawi. Representing the experiences of these highly committed, local energy focused organisations, he will discuss how community engagement is the foundation of their work, the challenges of enabling energy access in this context, and the life-changing impact that can arise.

Damien is a senior member of the Energy for Development team within the Institute for Energy and Environment at the University of Strathclyde. He has nearly 15 years of experience working across a range of research and knowledge exchange projects in partnership with NGOs and academic institutions in Malawi. The focus of his work is enabling sustainable electricity access for rural, underserved communities via off-grid solar energy systems and renewable energy minigrids. He is passionate about working with local organisations to achieve this, forming multi-disciplinary teams to develop and apply appropriate technical, economic and social innovation.

Damien Frame smiling


Morning panel 2: Developing and rolling out low carbon heat solutions

Neil Harrison is a Commercial Director at Reheat. He will be speaking about developing and rolling out low carbon heat. He will introduce the CARES Community Heat Development Programme, share case studies of communities that have benefited, and discuss the benefits of taking a community approach to low carbon heat.

Neil is Commercial Director and co-founder of Reheat with 20 years’ experience in forestry, biomass energy, low carbon heat and enterprise in commercial, voluntary and government settings. Neil is passionate about driving forward community heat and the multiple benefits it can deliver.

Neil Harrison, Commercial Director at Reheat, smiling at the camera


Alex Schlicke is a director at Scene Connect. He will be steps you take after you’ve completed a project feasibility study.

Alex is a project manager with extensive experience of the built environment and renewable energy systems from initial feasibility appraisals to securing planning consents and implementation. He has worked on all scales of development and across multiple technologies. More recently he has been heavily involved in developing innovative systems-based approaches, combining energy efficiency and carbon reduction measures with and Smart Control technologies for the efficient operation of net zero systems. Alex’s expertise in community engagement and management have been key in Scene’s approach and success in local energy and multi-stakeholder renewables projects.

Alex Schlicke smiling at the camera


Sharon Gemmell is a manager at Parklea Branching Out. Sharon will discuss Parklea Branching Out’s funding journey into low carbon technologies and the improvements to their energy efficiency and recent infrastructure developments. These have supported developments of their energy projects for their organisation and community. They have recently installed an air source heat pump in their community building and are planning to install a ground source heat pump as part of a new community hub. They also have a biomass boiler, installed ten years ago. Sharon will explain why they’ve chosen low carbon solutions, the benefits and share some tips for others thinking of doing this.

Sharon has been working in the local Inverclyde community and third sector for over 25 years. She is passionate about the service the PBO provides to the local learning disability community and wider community of Inverclyde and has helped the facilities and service grow and develop over many years, attracting a wide range of both revenue and capital funding to meet the aims and purpose and long term sustainability of the charity.


Workshop 1: Introduction to community shared ownership of windfarms

Gillian Harkness-McKinlay is a Director (Public and Third Sector Team) at Anderson Strathern LLP. Gillian will be talking at our Introduction to shared ownership workshop, providing an overview of the key legal structures involved in community renewables schemes.

Gillian is a corporate, commercial and charities lawyer specialising in working with third sector clients. One of her specialisms is advising on legal structures within a third sector context. She has considerable experience of community renewables projects and has been a passionate advocate for the benefits of these schemes since her first involvement with Fintry Development Trust, many years ago. She was involved in the incorporation of Scotland’s first ever SCIO. Gillian is a member of the Charity Law Subcommittee of the Law Society of Scotland and is recognised in both Chambers and Legal 500 directories for her expertise.

Gillian Harkness-McKinlay smiling at the camera


Morven Lyon is a Programme Manager at Development Trusts Association Scotland. She will explore the important role of development trusts in exploring CSO – covering what a development trust is, the strengths of the structure and the development trust movement nationally. Morven will discuss whether a development trust is an ideal structure to pursue community shared ownership and what the advantages/ disadvantages might be over other structures, such as community councils.

Morven Lyon has worked for the Development Trusts Association Scotland for nine years – her role as Programme Manager is focused on community-led finance models and community business development. She currently manages the team delivering DTAS’ successful Community Shares Scotland programme. She has expertise in the community shares finance model and the Community Benefit Society governance structure.

Morven Lyon smiling


Workshop 2: Innovation – what’s next for community energy?

David Linsley-Hood is a Consultancy Director at Locogen. David will talk about the net-zero challenges communities look at that incorporate low carbon heat and transport, as well as generation. Grid curtailment is constraining or delaying many projects. Energy storage and Hydrogen are regularly hailed as options, but are they part of your options? David will take a look at some of the innovative approaches that are addressing these and how those lessons might be applied to community renewables.

David is a Chartered Engineer with two decades of experience in renewable energy system design, project development, training, and consultancy. He has overseen a diverse range of projects spanning the project lifecycle, including installations featuring single and hybrid renewable technologies. He is also the project director on all of Locogen’s innovation projects, including Arbkike Hydrogen distillery and co-located storage projects. He has worked extensively with community renewables and has supported dozens of projects, through their development, and in a personal capacity, has been an active board member on several of these. He currently sits on the board of the Small Wind Co-op.


Rosie Macinnes is a Director at Raasay Community Renewables and one of the development officers for the Carbon Neutral Islands project. Rosie will discuss learning from the development of community climate action plans and carbon audits.

Rosie has a background in mechanical engineering and community development, as well as being involved in the development of the Island’s Climate Action Plan, Energy and Transport audits, and local renewable projects.

Rosie Macinnes, Carbon Neutral Development Officer at Raasay Development Trust smiling at the camera on a boat.


Dan McCallum is the manager at Awel Aman Tawe/Egni Co-op. Dan will be discussing how to develop a rooftop solar at scale: Egni Co-op which has installed 4.5MW of rooftop solar on 100 community, business and school roofs in Wales. He will also talk about working with procurement. Egni recently won a tender with Pembs council for 16 schools and 4 leisure centres as the Council gave weighting to social value/climate education in schools

Dan is a co-founder of Awel Aman Tawe (AAT), a Director of Awel Co-op, Egni Co-op and Ynni Cymunedol Cymru/Community Energy Wales. Dan led the development of Awel Co-op community wind farm north of Swansea since 1998. The 4.7MW scheme was commissioned in January 2017. Since then, Egni has installed the largest rooftop solar co-op in the UK. AAT is redeveloping Hwb y Gors, which is the former primary school close to the wind farm – it will be an arts, education and social enterprise centre, opening in March 2023. Dan was awarded an MBE in the 2019 New Years Honours List for services to community energy in Wales.

 Dan McCallum smiling with a wind turbine behind him


Workshop 3: Decarbonising community buildings and place-based climate action

Bruce Newlands is a Trustee of The Inverclyde Shed. Bruce will be talking about a case study of the refurbishment of a community workshop with the inclusion of photovoltaic panels, operational & lifetime carbon, and the circular economy.

Bruce is a qualified architect and co-founder of The Inverclyde Shed, part of the Scottish Men’s Shed Network. The shed was formed in 2018, won Scottish shed of the year 2020 and has now established a long-term home that embodies industrial heritage, low operational costs and emissions and is an exemplar of building re-use within the circular economy model.

Bruce Newlands, Trustee of the Inverclyde Shed, looking down at the camera smiling


Alastair Balfour is Strathblane Community Development Trust’s (SCDT) retired director. Alastair will be discussing the building of Strathblane’s new £1m Thomas Graham Community Library – the first new community-owned public library to be built in Scotland since World War Two.

Alastair is a former journalist (The Scotsman, Daily Record, Sunday Standard), publisher (Scottish Business Insider) and business consultant. After retirement, he has spent four years as a director of SCDT, mostly focused on the design, funding and planning of the library project. He is still trying to ‘retire’, though currently Alastair and his wife are co-chairs of Strathblane Heritage Society.


Workshop 4: How to finance community shared ownership of windfarms

Ragne Low is a Deputy Director of the Onshore Electricity, Strategy and Consents at the Scottish Government. Ragne will discuss the considerations on how the Scottish Government will realise the ambitions of the Onshore Wind Policy statement and seek to support community shared ownership of windfarms.

Ragne Low’s current role comes with the responsibility of supporting Scotland’s mission of reducing emissions and creating a wellbeing economy through facilitating the deployment of onshore renewables and the development of the nation’s wider energy systems.

In her previous role in the Scottish Government, Ragne led a team focused on the heating of Scotland’s building stock and was responsible for a range of heat decarbonisation policies, including the commitment to develop Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategies, public sector leadership on heat decarbonisation, and the development of regulations for new buildings.


Workshop 5: Heat pumps – heating for net zero

Ben Whittle is a Senior Low Carbon Consultant at Energy Saving Trust. Ben will be discussing the interplay between smart heating with heat pumps and the carbon benefits of smart tariffs, and peak shifting with PV and batteries.

Ben has worked in renewable energy and low carbon policy for 20 years. He started work designing and installing solar systems, and now sits on the MCS heat pump working group. His day-to-day work includes report writing and projects for various governments relating to retrofit and renewables regulation. He has solar PV, battery, solar thermal and an air source heat pump at home, which he installed himself.


Ian Heron is a Specification Manager (Residential Heating) at Mitsubishi Electric – Living Environmental Systems. Ian will discuss Air Source Heat Pumps – the basics of how they work, their installation, training that Mitsubishi Electric provides, and what to be aware of to maximise performance of the systems.

For the past nine years Ian has been involved in the transition to renewable heating. Working with RSL’s, architects, housebuilders & installers, he provides advice, designs & specification of ASHPs and assists in delivering both new build and retrofit projects to decarbonise buildings and assist clients in reducing fuel poverty.


Workshop 6: Community Benefits, Community Action Plans and the journey to Net Zero

Rachel Searle is the Head of Communities & Impact at Foundation Scotland. Rachel will share how net zero is reflected in Foundation Scotland’s approach to supporting communities involved with community benefit funds. She will also discuss examples of communities delivering activity that reflects a greater understanding of the need to work towards net zero.

Rachel has been leading Foundation Scotland’s national Communities Team since 2011, developing good practice with communities and developers around community benefit funds. Their team supports the distribution of over £7,000,000 of community benefit funding across Scotland. Rachel was a member of the Advisory Groups for the 2014 and 2019 Scottish Government Good Practice Principles for Community Benefit from Onshore Renewables. She also led Foundation Scotland’s work to produce the CARES Toolkit on Community Benefit (2020). In December 2022 the team won the Scottish Green Energy Award for Best Engagement for their work on the incoming South Kyle community benefit fund.

 Rachel Searle, Head of Communities & Impact at Foundation Scotland smiling at the camera


Stephen McCarron is a Chief Operating Officer at the 9CC Group. Stephen will discuss the development of a local democratic management vehicle for community benefit disbursement throughout a collective of nine individual communities within the former coalfield area of Cumnock & Doon Valley, East Ayrshire.

Stephen has been recently appointed as the new Chief Operating Officer of the 9 Community Council Group (9CC Group), to secure, manage, administer and disburse over £100M in community benefit income from multiple wind farm developments located in Southwest Scotland. A qualified Economic Development Practitioner, Stephen’s previous roles included 10 years’ service as manager of a local development trust and over 20 years’ experience within local government. Stephen is the current Chairperson of his local Community Council and was recently elected to the board of Development Trust Association Scotland.

Stephen McCarron, Chief Operating Officer at The 9CC Group, talking at an event.


Robin Winstanley is Head of External Affairs and Sustainability at Banks Renewables. He will share how Banks Renewables have approached community benefits broadly and then focus on a project they have recently worked on in South Lanarkshire – Bodinglee – which has a proposal to strategically focus community benefit funds on the creation of a community energy company whose purpose will be to help local households improve their energy efficiency and lower their carbon footprint. This body will also be offered a share of the wind farm.

Robin has worked in renewables for three years and oversees all the community work for Banks as well as the sustainability agenda for Banks Group. Prior to this, he worked for IKEA in a range of commercial leadership roles. Robin’s passion and expertise is in helping businesses work together with the communities they live and work in so that they can deliver social, environmental and economic value and help tackle the generational challenges they face together. At Banks, Robin is involved with large-scale onshore wind, battery, solar and flexible generation technologies which are critical elements of the energy transition.