The National Farmers Union Scotland, Glasgow-based wind turbine manufacturer Gaia-Wind and Scottish Renewables have condemned proposed UK Government cuts to support for small-scale green energy projects.
The warning comes ahead of the end of a consultation today (23 Oct) on changes to the Feed-in Tariff which could see funding for solar cut by 87% and wind down 58% – or the end of support altogether.
Scotland is home to 42,000 FiT-scale solar schemes (equivalent to around 660,000 250W solar panels), 2,557 small wind projects, 204 hydro-electric schemes and three anaerobic digesters, which turn food waste and farm slurry into gas and electricity.
Johnnie Andringa, Chief Executive, Gaia-Wind, said: “For the vast majority of our turbine owners a sensible and supportive Feed-in Tariff is a crucial part of the economics of ‘distributed energy’ – the generation of power mostly for on-site use.
“Farm-scale wind – a sector with a substantial, if shrinking, base of British manufacturers – is becoming a core element of the rural economy as farmers seek to diversify from dwindling traditional income streams.
“The changes to the FiT, however, mean we could now see more company failures and job losses as a direct consequence of government policy.”
Gemma Thomson, NFU Scotland’s Legal and Technical Policy Manager, said the proposed FiT changes would “severely limit” the number of on-farm renewable schemes in future.
She said: “These proposals will end many on-farm renewable plans, and severely limit the number of new projects that will come forward in the future.
The Feed-in Tariff supports renewable developments below 5MW. Electricity from this scale of development can be used to power machinery and property on a farm or small business.
An 11kW Gaia-Wind turbine powers the farmhouse, water borehole and cattle sheds at Debbie and Neil McGowan’s mixed livestock and arable farm in Perthshire.
Debbie told how changes to the Feed-in Tariff mean “it’s now hard to see how farmers in our position would be able to invest in renewable energy”.
She said: “Our wind turbine is a central part of our business, and a sensible FiT rate is key to making renewables the invaluable support that it is.
“Our turbine powers a water borehole supplying four farms. About 73% of the energy is used on the farm and the rest is sold to the national grid. Our electricity bills have reduced by nearly a third and the extra income has helped us enormously in making farm improvements.
“We have been able to offset reductions in income from other parts of the business with the reduced energy prices provided by the turbine and income from selling power to the grid, but it’s now hard to see how farmers in our position would be able to invest in renewable energy with the projected cuts to the Feed-in Tariff.
A spokesman for Scottish Renewables, said: “Reductions in support for small-scale renewables provided through the Feed-in Tariff will hit rural businesses particularly hard, coming as they would on top of well-publicised low prices, particularly in the dairy industry.
“We are asking that rates be kept at a viable level in order to safeguard the jobs and environmental and economic benefits that the sector provides.”