SSE Renewables has today, 29 May 2020, announced a total of £2.15m will be awarded to 23 transformational projects from its Highland Sustainable Development Fund.

The funds will help support communities across the region as they work to recover from the current outbreak.

The Sustainable Development Fund’s application process took place prior to the pandemic, however, in response the fund’s independent panel, responsible for funding decisions, acted quickly to double the amount of funding available.

This swift action has helped to drive much needed funding towards community projects that will help the region ensure it has the infrastructure and capacity to cope during 2020, but also to grow the economy again with facilities and skills that are attractive to tourists and employers in the future.

Given the current emergency, the fund focussed on projects which boost the economy, enhance skills opportunities and protect the heritage of the region. One of the largest economic drivers in the Highlands is tourism, a sector that has been badly affected by the outbreak and this year the fund is awarding over half a million to tourism projects in the Highlands, helping them to recover and grow over the months and years ahead.

Lord Jack McConnell, Chair of the Sustainable Development Fund, said: “These are difficult times for those who live, work and do business in Highland Region. We have supported projects that provide hope for the future with more sustainable communities and jobs. And to make sure these projects happen we will be flexible in working with local organisations to meet the new circumstances.”

Successful projects include a £300,000 to Raasay Development Trust to create a community owned hydro system which will be vital to boosting the local economy.  Farmer Jones Academy CIC have been awarded £102,000 to provide training and apprenticeship provision which will be vital to support the recovery of local businesses.

Sarah MacKenzie, Director of Farmer Jones Academy CIC said: “With the support from SSE Renewables, we will be able to expand our accredited training portfolio, establish growing hubs and deliver early intervention farming, food and drink masterclasses to schools, community groups and local businesses within the Highlands. Due to the current pandemic, the need for local homegrown produce and talent has never been greater.”

Other projects benefitting from funding include £115,000 to build affordable community housing in Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston, £47,139 towards the creation of a training academy in Inverness and a £174,456 grant to transform Dornoch police station into a community hub.

The leading renewable energy developer and operator has always been committed to sharing the benefits of its wind farm funds with the communities in which it operates. This commitment has been strengthened again during the coronavirus outbreak as SSE Renewables works with communities to identify funding and how best to use it to help local communities respond to, and recover from, the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

The Sustainable Development Fund is in addition to SSE Renewables local community funds and supports strategic projects in regions where SSE Renewables operates. The fund brings the benefits of SSE Renewables’ energy developments to a wider area and is directed at projects that can achieve significant impacts in local communities. Over the next 25 years it is expected that the fund could be worth over £50m.