Regen is pleased to see the government announce wider community benefits as well as electricity bill discounts for communities living close to new electricity transmission infrastructure.  Developing new electricity transmission infrastructure will unlock vital grid capacity and enable communities up and down the country to build, and benefit from, renewable energy generation. Regen has highlighted the scale of investment needed in the grid to help increase energy security and the need for improved planning processes that will speed up delivery.  

Communities are an essential part of grid development

Communities will be impacted by the growth of the electricity network. Infrastructure cannot be built in a vacuum and there will always be communities impacted by development. These communities must be engaged with about the benefits of new infrastructure to build local consensus and support. 

Regen and others in the energy sector have called for a benefits scheme to recognise this impact and support communities that will be living close to new transmission infrastructure. The CEO of National Grid has echoed this call by asking for networks to be able to offer community benefits as part of transmission grid development.

In May 2023 the UK government launched a consultation about community benefits from transmission infrastructure. Regen responded with a briefing note for communities and local authorities and submitted a detailed consultation response, making it clear that: 

  • High-quality community engagement is vital when it comes to new infrastructure.
  • Communities unfamiliar with community benefit funds will need additional support to navigate the processes.
  • Regen does not support the idea of direct payments as it will create many challenges and delays. We support community payments, but direct payments are not conducive to a fair distribution of community benefits. 
  • Community benefits should become mandatory and standardised (while enabling flexibility in the form and scale of community benefits). Voluntary approaches are helpful to enact a swift transition to community benefits but lack consistency.  
  • There is a need for more joined-up thinking across government departments so that any changes align with community benefit funds for electricity generation infrastructure. 

Communities must be supported to create long term investments 

We are pleased that the government’s response recognises the need for wider community benefits as well as electricity bill discounts. Wider community benefits often lead to a longer lasting benefit in the community, for example through providing funding for communities to undertake low-carbon projects such as home retrofits. However, for this approach to be successful, communities must be empowered to make decisions about how the benefits will be delivered to ensure that they are felt within the wider community and not just by the most vocal members. 

We are calling for the government to ensure that this support is provided and help communities make informed decisions on what form of benefits are most appropriate for their area.  

As these benefits are currently voluntary, we also encourage industry to ensure that they are consistently provided and that communities are being made aware of the opportunities available. We are pleased to see that the government will be considering the potential to make this mandatory. 

The value of community engagement 

Community engagement will have a critical role to play in fostering local acceptance of new energy transmission infrastructure. To help reduce opposition people must be engaged early in decisions about siting and development logistics and networks must help communities understand why certain infrastructure needs to be in certain locations. We are pleased to see that the Government has committed within the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project Reforms Action Plan to develop guidance on community engagement. This guidance will be important for ensuring that transmission infrastructure is built in a way that supports and is supported by everyone.



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