The programme has been a key project in recent years for the Morvern Community Development Company (MCDC), a charitable organisation that has worked alongside the local council to support sustainable development in the area for over 20 years. “Morvern is a delightful place to live and work but it faces challenges to maintain a sustainable community in a remote rural community location,” explains MCDC’s chair, Jane Stuart-Smith.

Now, MCDC has secured a new finance arrangement to support the development of a high-head hydropower scheme on the Barr River near Loch Teacuis.

Jane continues: “We are delighted to have reached financial close and can now begin building the scheme. Getting to this point has taken a huge investment of local volunteer effort sustained over many years.

“MCDC has a strong track record in creating and delivering local infrastructure projects. The income from the scheme will be an important source of investment into the local development priorities. There is an increasing focus on community involvement in energy networks. The scheme also gives the Morvern community a strategic stake in the energy supply on the peninsular.”

Once installed, the scheme is expected to have a 1.6MW capacity and to generate approximately 4,269,000 kWh each year – enough to power over 1,000 homes*, operating for at least 50 years. It adheres to regulations set by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to protect the local ecology and will take approximately 14 months to build.

Many different groups have come together to make the project happen, including Triodos Bank, the Scottish Government, Scottish Investment Bank and Forestry and Land Scotland. Triodos Bank has provided a £4.26m Triodos Bank loan, with a further £2.23m of funding from the Energy Investment Fund, which is administered by the Scottish Investment Bank on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Lochaline Harbour (Photo: MCDC)

Powering change

Since 2014, the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), which aims to support and grow community and local energy projects throughout the country, has assisted MCDC. “Morvern are a fantastic example of what an empowered community can achieve, with a great track record in project delivery and actively engaged in planning for their future,” comments Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands.

“At 1.6 MW, the scheme is, I understand, the largest hydro in the UK to be entirely community-owned and that is a tremendous achievement for Morvern. I am also really delighted that all profits from the project will be channelled back into the community to support local priorities and, I am sure, this will make a real and positive difference to the lives of local people and this is why we are keen to see more projects such as this.”

This is a great example of a community energy project – bringing people and organisations together to do something for both people and planet.
Philip Bazin, environment team manager at Triodos Bank UK

The outlook

Shared-ownership renewable energy schemes look to provide a bright future for remote communities in Scotland and across the UK. The income from Morvern’s hydropower scheme will help to support MCDC’s work providing recreational facilities and activities, advancing community development and enabling the area’s environment, culture, heritage and history to flourish.

“Scotland has been harnessing the power of water through hydro-electric schemes for more than one hundred years, particularly in the Highlands where hydro has been crucial in connecting remote rural communities to the grid,” says Kerry Sharp, director of Scottish Investment Bank, one of the project’s funders.

“As well as being a big part of Scotland’s energy past, the support for the Barr River project proves that hydropower can be a major part of Scotland’s energy future. We’re genuinely excited to help MCDC continue to capitalise on Morvern’s natural and built environment for the benefit of the local community.”

*Homes equivalent calculation based on an annual average domestic household consumption of 4,200 kWh.

About Morvern Community Development Company (MCDC)

MCDC was set up in 1999, following encouragement by the Morvern Community Council. The organisation is committed to managing community assets for the benefit of local people and the wider public. It aims to help provide recreational facilities and activities, to advance community development and to enable the area’s environment, culture, heritage and history to flourish.

Why we finance renewable energy

We believe that a fundamental transition is needed away from a carbon-based economy to a renewable one. By lending and investing in this sector we try to stimulate this transition, with our main focus on financing solar, wind and hydro energy.

Find out more