UK adds £10 million for community renewable energy schemes

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The United Kingdom’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has announced the launch of a new fund giving community groups in England the opportunity to bid for grants of up to £20,000 or loans of up to £130,000 to help kick start renewable energy projects.

The Urban Community Energy Fund (UCEF) adds £10 million to the number of community owned renewable energy schemes in England. The DECC said the fund would allow community groups to create "power hubs" in their area.

"Installing solar panels on local buildings or factories or building an anaerobic digestion plant to create energy from local waste can save whole communities money,” the DECC said in statement, adding that in East Sussex, the south east’s first ever community energy scheme had installed solar panels on Harvey’s Brewery. While the brewery benefits from lower energy bills, the community benefits from money back under the feed-in tariff.

“I want to give more people the power to generate their own electricity and by supporting community energy projects we can — helping them drive down their energy bills at the same time,” said Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey, who announced the funding on a visit to the brewery on Thursday.

“That’s why we’ve pledged £10 million, so communities can play their part in generating renewable power at a local level. This is all about investing in renewable energy sources, creating jobs and changing the way renewable energy is developed in the UK.”

The community energy sector will also see its first major shake-up since the launch of the Community Energy Strategy in January this year. Community electricity projects stand to receive further support under the feed-in tariff scheme, according to the DECC.

New changes to the community energy support scheme include:

  • Registered charities will for the first time be entitled to the same benefits as other community groups
  • Two community projects (or one community project and one commercial project), each up to 5 MW, will now be able to share a single grid connection and receive separate feed-in tariffs
  • The FIT will now be guaranteed for an extra six months – giving communities more time to get their project up and running

Kathy Smyth, policy director of Community Energy England, said, "Without risking the integrity of the wider feed-in tariff scheme, this will stimulate community involvement in larger renewable schemes. It will be a great boost to projects using the split ownership model under the voluntary protocol for Shared Community Ownership, which Ed Davey launched earlier this month."

In addition to the changes, a Register of Community Benefits and Engagement for onshore wind projects has been launched to help other communities with proposed wind developments in their area.

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