19 February 2015
In theory community energy is flavour of the month across the political spectrum. It was mentioned in the Coalition Agreement in 2010 and senior politicians frequently like to express their support. Ed Davey and Greg Barker published a Community Energy Strategy and established a small community energy team at the Department of Energy and Climate Change to support the sector.
It is true that there have been some key interventions which have been important – in the long term allowing large sites of up to 10MW to be eligible for Feed in tariff if ownership is divided between the commercial owner and the community may prove to be the most significant of these.
However, it can be hard to remain positive in the face of relentless changes in government policy which cause uncertainty for many already complex projects. The latest of these are the changes to tax relief announced in the Autumn Statement in which it was announced that the existing form of tax relief would be withdrawn on an unspecified date and replaced by something else, also on an unspecified date.
Meanwhile, our own local energy co-operative, Wey Valley Solar Schools, has been working for the last 9 months on expanding the co-op because changes in the FITs rates mean it will be good for the co-op and good for the schools if the size of some of the arrays can be increased. In fact the co-op looks likely to nearly double in terms of size from 280kw as it hopes to add around another 250kW. These schemes will go ahead in some form or another, but the uncertainty of the taxation system after 5 April is making a difficult task even harder.