Recently, I saw both Labour/Tory East Lothian Council and the SNP/Green Scottish Government effusive in their praise for a donation of £1m from Community Windpower’s wind farms near Aikengall to a fuel poverty fund that will be administered by Advice Direct Scotland.
The message from both administrations appeared to be “glory hallelujah, we had been saved” and, while it is unfair to automatically criticise the contribution which proportionally may well be significantly greater than that made by many of the bigger energy providers, questions still arise.
Who is Community Windpower Ltd? The name conjures up memories from my youth of the Bo’ness and Carriden Co-op but it is neither a co-op nor community owned in any shape or form. A brief review of company accounts shows its wholly owned by another Community Windpower Ltd, this time located in Cheshire. Ownership of the latter rests with two individuals. There’s zero percent community ownership and, despite the name, there’s not even a community seat on the board, such as those given by many football clubs to fans.
Of course, £1m in these hard times is not to be sniffed at but trying to seek further information about the donation is where it becomes difficult. Requests to the company and even governments to find out what percentage of profits this is - and what further annual contributions will be made - have gone largely unanswered.
Yet, a brief glimpse of accounts shows recent significant dividend payments to directors not a kick in the grass away from the sum trumpeted. Dividend payments incur less personal taxation than a salary payment would.
Of course, this payment is welcome but the name belies the reality that it is a private company, not a community enterprise, and the sums are no doubt a fraction of the annual profits, let alone corporate turnover, given the turbines are turning for decades and not just a year.
As ever with renewables, all I’m asking is where is our fair share?