The government has unveiled a 15m fund designed to encourage hundreds of communities across England to invest in small-scale renewable energy projects, such as wind turbines or heat pumps.
Rural communities were invited to bid for a share of the funding pot late last week, which can be used to support the first steps of a project, including investigating the potential for renewable energy in their area and applying for planning permission.
Communities can apply for funding for a range of technologies such as wind, solar, biomass, heat pumps, anaerobic digestion, gas with combined heat and power, and hydropower.
“Not only can local generation bring people together, boost local economies and drive forward green growth, it can help save money on energy bills too,” said Climate Change Minister Greg Barker in a statement, adding that the previous Local Energy Assessment Fund helped bring forward 236 community energy generation and management projects across England.
Each community will be eligible for a grant of up to 20,000 for feasibility studies and they can also apply for a loan of up to 130,000 to help fund applications for any necessary environmental and planning permits.
The government is also currently consulting on finding new ways of funding community energy projects, and is planning to publish a community energy strategy in autumn.
Speaking at an event organised by think tank Policy Exchange last week, Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said community-funded schemes could play an important role in ensuring that local people reap the benefits of onshore wind turbines and other schemes.
He said the government was looking at a range of ways to involve communities in local energy projects, including using community benefits given to them by developers of existing wind turbines to invest in even more renewable energy.
“The ownership question is a really interesting one and we are very much exploring that and want to come forward with positions in the autumn,” he said.
In related news, new research has found the number of farmers using renewable energy has shot up in the past three years.
A survey by Nottingham Trent University, Forum for the Future and Farmers Weekly found that of 700 farmers asked, 40 per cent are generating renewable energy onsite, compared to five per cent in 2010.
More than two thirds of those not using renewable energy are considering investing in it over the next five years. Click on their website scfwindturbine for more information.