Technology: 200kW community hydroelectric scheme

Location: on the Easan Garbh Burn, Rhiconich, Sutherland

CARES funding: £25,000 enablement grant plus £134,149 development loan

Date installed/operational: 1 July 2022


The site for this 200kW hydro scheme, located by the A838 just past Rhiconich, was developed by Highland Eco Design (HED).

Highland ED and Energy4All had been working together on a collective shared ownership hydro project comprising five sites across Scotland, mainly in the Highlands. Highland ED offered an additional two sites for community ownership, one of which was the Rhiconich site. The remaining five schemes were held by Highland Community Energy Society Limited (Highland CES), a community benefit society (also known as a CBS or BenCom). It was set up to take a community stake in up to six hydro projects and aims to contribute financially to its local communities.

The Rhiconich project was fully consented and pre-accredited and had a viable grid connection offer, meaning that the hydro scheme was able to proceed through fundraising to construction and to completion.

Project aims and objectives

Stakeholders met on 28 June 2019 in Kinlochbervie to explore the possibility and practicality of community ownership of the hydro at Rhiconnich. Representatives attended from the Kinlochbervie Community Company (KCC), Highland ED, Energy4All and Local Energy Scotland. At this meeting it was suggested that E4A and Highland ED should write a formal letter to the community outlining their proposal to enable the project to progress.

The KCC directors adopted the proposal on 6 February 2020. The Kinlochbervie Community Energy Ltd (KCEL) was then formed to take ownership of the scheme.

The project aimed to:

  • build a 200kW hydro scheme that would be locally owned
  • provide a guaranteed contribution to the local community through the financial surplus generated (estimated at £181,000 over 40 years)
  • create an additional community benefit of £1,128,000 (estimated, from years 17 to 40) after the capital loan is repaid
  • support the Scottish Government’s target of 2 GW of community and locally owned energy by 2030.

KCEL applied for funding and support from the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) to develop the project right up until it reached financial close.

Highland CES carried out a community share offer to provide post-financial close funding, with an onward loan to the KCEL to provide capital funding and pay back any outstanding development costs. Around £700,000 was raised by the public share offer, with many local people investing in the offer.

Outcomes and achievements

Kinlochbervie Community Hydro

 The Kinlochbervie Community Hydro Scheme was built, and was fully operational on 1 July 2022. It was officially opened with a community event on 25 October 2022.

It is estimated that the community owned hydro scheme will generate 579MWh of electricity each year. The hydro is expected to save a total of 13,314 tonnes of carbon emissions over its lifetime (40 years), which is around 333 tonnes each year. It will also generate sustainable revenue for the benefit of the Kinlochbervie community and local investors, as well as a long-term increasing annual income for the KCC.

A representative of KCEL said “This is a significant achievement for a small, remote community and the benefits will be both financial and social in nature. The community is extremely excited about the project, particularly the children in the local schools.”

 Lessons learned

KCEL’s representative said:

“The main lessons we learned are that the BenCom should work in partnership with an established, local community organisation to ensure the community becomes properly engaged in the project and derives maximum benefit from the project – this happened with this project.

“The other main lesson has been to work closely and quickly with the landowners to ensure the security of land tenure is in place on time.”

Published February 2023.