Call to fund community mid-range energy schemes

Schools, businesses and communities should be given financial support to install medium-sized renewable energy schemes such as wind turbines and solar panels, MPs have urged.

Local schemes could provide cheaper electricity to communities, cut costs for businesses and encourage people to engage with measures to save energy, as well as increase the UK’s energy security, the Energy and Climate Change (ECC) parliamentary committee argued.

Local energy could provide a significant proportion of the UK’s energy capacity in the future, although large-scale projects would still supply the majority of power for the country, the MPs said.

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But while households which install small-scale systems, such as solar panels, and major renewables projects both receive financial support, medium-sized schemes, between 10 and 50 megawatts, fall through the gap and receive no cash.

The Government must bring forward proposals to support such schemes, alongside a package of measures addressing finance, planning, grid access and advice, a report from the committee urged.

The Government-backed Green Investment Bank (GIB) could provide seed funding for feasibility studies, permits for the grid and other elements to reduce the risk in getting schemes off the ground.

Medium-sized local energy projects could include wind turbines, solar arrays of a number of panels, schemes which provide heat to a number of buildings and could be locally-owned, run by councils or installed by companies, or organisations including universities or hospitals.

Speaking for the committee, Alan Whitehead said: “Encouraging schools, businesses and local authorities to generate some of their electricity locally can bring big benefits to communities and the UK as a whole.

“Although it is unlikely that local energy projects will eliminate the need for larger, centralised power stations, with some Government support they could provide a significant proportion of the UK’s energy capacity while reducing carbon emissions and increasing efficiency.”

The report also urged the Government to do more to encourage local authorities to identify suitable areas for renewable energy development.

And the Government should encourage businesses to offer local people a stake in all new energy developments, or consider making community ownership mandatory, which could help boost support for new power schemes.