Responding to the statement by Danny Alexander, a Highlands LibDem MP and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, to substantially cut the prices paid to companies generating electricity from more mature technologies like on-shore wind from 2015, Community Energy Scotland said that this would put ‘community energy projects in peril”.
Nicholas Gubbins, Chief Executive at Community Energy Scotland – the charity which champions local energy production and local use with communities as the owners or stakeholders – called for special arrangements to allow the growth in the number and scale of community schemes to continue.
He said: ‘Danny Alexander’s announcement means that we will basically be left with no viable support for onshore renewables that will allow communities to develop schemes.
“By cutting strike prices and threatening ROCs for all on-shore renewables, and With Feed in Tariff rates reducing by up to 20% annually, too many community renewable energy projects just can’t proceed.’
In the last three years, there has been rapid growth in growth in the sector, with a 60% increase in installed capacity, which has been driven by Feed in Tariff support levels that make small scale projects financially viable. But under Alexander’s announcement, the FiT is scheduled to be cut by 20% next year.
Based in Edinburgh and Dingwall, the Community Energy Scotland ‘umbrella’ comprises more than 400 local community-based, self-help energy co-operatives. Gubbins added: “We need the government to do three things.
“First, to recognise that community renewable energy schemes need a guaranteed Strike Price / Feed in Tariff / Renewable Heat Incentive to be agreed well ahead of commissioning – this would give communities time to plan and finance their projects
“Second, a Community FIT or RHI set at a level which allows communities to raise finance locally or commercially, and third:
“Planning authorities require clear government guidance that locally promoted schemes with local ownership should be considered quite differently from larger scale commercial wind, hydro, solar or biomass schemes. The impact is at a different scale and the benefits of a community scheme are much greater than most purely commercial schemes promoted by larger companies.”