Power to the people

Council leaders in Scotland are warning of bankruptcy due to cuts to local budgets. At this breaking point, public ownership of energy generation presents a vast, untapped potential for funding frontline services, empowering councils and tackling the climate crisis. 

Outlining a ‘make or break opportunity’ for Scotland’s public services, new research reveals that public ownership of energy generation could create up to £150million a year additional income for communities in North East Scotland, up to 27,000 green jobs in North East Scotland and a ‘virtuous spiral’ of green investment, sourcing locally and boosting regional economies.

The research, undertaken by Transition Economics and Platform, explores the role that public energy companies have played in rolling out renewable energy across Europe and within the UK. It is the first in a series of briefings that will explore how public energy at the municipal level can be publicly owned and financed. 

No-brainer

Flick Monk, public energy campaigner at Platform, said: “We have a make or break opportunity to empower communities and heal decades of cuts to local services. 

“Local authorities can come together to pool their resources. In the face of austerity and sky-high profits for private energy companies, it’s essential that Scottish councils work together to leverage funding for public energy projects that can deliver public services into the future.”

Gary Jack, campaigner with Extinction Rebellion (XR) Highlands and Islands, said: “Our natural resources are being sold off while communities suffer and bills soar. The Highlands have some of the worst housing stock in Europe, despite being Scotland’s oil capital. 

“A publicly owned renewable energy company could generate the revenue we need to better insulate our homes and install energy efficient heating systems. 

“It’s a no-brainer: lower bills, lower emissions, better jobs and bigger investment in public services. Instead of tax breaks and subsidies for big businesses, national governments should be giving councils the leg up they need to unlock the potential of publicly-owned renewable energy.”

Kris Leask, Green councillor for Orkney Islands Council, said: “For too long, communities across Scotland have seen the private sector exploit our world-leading renewable energy resources.

Green jobs

“Local authorities have a transformative opportunity to lead on decarbonisation and reclaim infrastructure for the common good. I’m delighted that groups in the North of Scotland are campaigning for this future and hope that other local authorities follow Orkney to restructure the energy relations which are so central to our lives.”

Chris Ballance, Highland Green councillor for Aird and Loch Ness, said: “Communities across the Highlands have been hit hard by the cost of living crisis and we are facing years more of austerity. A publicly owned energy company developed in partnership with the community has the potential to fund vital public services that people across this region rely on.”

Ryan Morrison, just transition campaigner at the Scottish Trades Union Congress, said: “Despite years of promises of green jobs in Scotland, our vast renewable potential is being used to line the pockets of multinational companies, including those owned by the governments and local authorities of our European neighbours.

“Instead of watching on as others reap the rewards, public ownership can help us build decent, green jobs, reindustrialise our energy supply chains, and grow the wealth of communities in Scotland.

“Orkney Council has shown what’s possible when councils take charge. Every councillor in Scotland should be redoubling their efforts towards greater local authority ownership for the good of people in their area.”

This Author 

Ruby Harbour is a freelance journalist. This article is based on a press release from Platform.

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