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Cutting carbon benefits entire communities

Projects like improving thermal wall insulation and upgrading boilers can make a big difference to individual households by making the properties more comfortable and cheaper to heat in the winter.

But, it turns out that the results of becoming more environmentally friendly are much further reaching - and the schemes can lead to wider benefits across entire communities.

That's according to Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing. He says that renewable energy programmes, ranging from large-scale wind farms to small-scale hydro projects brought more than £10 million back into local communities in 2015.

He's also looking forward to what this year brings: "2015 was a bumper year for community energy and 2016 can be just as exciting," he said.

In Scotland, there are more than 150 projects on the community renewables register. The target for community or local ownership of renewables of 500 megawatts was met five years early and 508 MW of capacity is now operational. In addition, the Scottish government's first Community Energy Policy Statement was published in September, which further promoted the economic and social benefits of shared energy ownership.

The Scottish government has launched a number of programmes to help support community energy, including the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme, the Renewable Energy Investment Fund and a local Energy Challenge fund.

"Our national guidance and support is encouraging more and more developers to increase the value of the community benefits they offer and consider community ownership - I want to see even more communities reap the benefits of owning and hosting small-scale renewables," Mr Ewing said, adding that such programmes can cut costs for consumers, create new revenue streams to transform communities and play a leading role in tackling climate change.

"Benefits ploughed back into communities can fund all sorts of schemes, from energy efficiency and fuel poverty programmes to befriending projects which reduce isolation for elderly people," he explained.

Chris Morris, local Energy Scotland manager, agreed, noting that the income communities receive from renewable energy products has now exceeded £10 million per year.‚Äč