Community renewable energy schemes in the UK are producing enough power for 130,000 homes
PUBLISHED: 08:42 20 June 2017 | UPDATED: 08:42 20 June 2017
Archant © 2012
Community-run energy schemes across the country such as local solar and wind projects are powering the equivalent of 130,000 homes, according to a report.
But experts have warned that “unprecedented cuts” in subsidy and tax incentives are threatening the development of local renewable energy schemes.
The most comprehensive overview so far of the state of the community energy sector revealed there are 222 community organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland operating solar, hydro or wind schemes.
They have raised £190m of investment, much of which has come from community share issues, with support from £1.9m initial development funding from the government, the report by Community Energy England said.
The schemes have a collective generation capacity of 121 megawatts (MW), sufficient to power 85,500 homes.
The report also reflects data collected by the Energy Saving Trust on behalf of the Scottish Government, showing Scotland has 67MW of community power.
In total, the UK has enough community energy installed to power 130,000 homes – the whole of Cardiff or Coventry.
Along with generating renewable electricity, communities are running schemes to improve energy efficiency across more than 70 local areas, supplying heating projects and even exploring low carbon transport or energy storage.
The report said carbon emissions have been reduced by 110,000 tonnes to date – equivalent to the annual emissions of 200,000 households – while other benefits include reducing fuel poverty and providing funding for other local projects.
Community Energy England chief executive Emma Bridge said: “The achievement of community energy organisations across the UK is incredible and shows how they are delivering real benefits for local communities, the wider environment and the UK energy sector too.
“These projects have proved that they are both innovatory and resilient in a very tough climate but the unprecedented cuts in subsidy and tax incentives present them with their biggest challenge yet.”
The reduction of “feed-in tariff” subsidies for small generation schemes, removal of the renewables obligation support and closure of initiatives such as the Urban Community Energy Fund in 2015 have also hit projects.
Ms Bridge said: “If government is serious about creating a new renewable energy industry to meet the nation’s power needs it has got to share this confidence, embrace the community energy sector and restore the modest support that it needs to thrive.”