A joint letter signed by ministers from Scotland and Wales has called for the UK Government to open discussion into its support for renewable energy.
The Past Few Months In UK Renewable Energy Politics
Over the past couple of months, a lot has been written about the UK Government’s plans to retract support for wind and solar energy development across the country. Announced back in June, the UK Government stated that it will cease allowing onshore wind farms access to the country’s main renewables subsidy scheme, starting on April 1, 2016. The Renewables Obligation Scheme came into effect in England, Wales, and Scotland in 2002, and in Northern Ireland in 2005, and “places an obligation on UK electricity suppliers to source an increasing proportion of the electricity they supply from renewable sources.”
A month later the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced that it had removed subsidies for other renewables, and begun consultation on controlling subsidies for solar projects 5 MW and under. The DECC also hinted at the possibility it would begin modifying the country’s Feed-in Tariff program for renewables.
Several weeks following, the newly appointed Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, gave her first official speech at the Aviva climate change conference, where she was roundly criticized for the tenor of her attitude towards renewable energy.
“Despite the laudable ambitions expressed by the Energy Secretary in her speech today, the current trajectory of current Government policy on renewables is not an encouraging one, following their announcements on ending support for onshore wind and solar, as well as scrapping the Green Deal and the Zero Carbon Homes objective, and making punitive changes to the Climate Change Levy,” said RenewableUK’s Director of Policy Dr Gordon Edge.
“It’s like saying you want to win the Tour de France on a bike without wheels. That basic mismatch between rhetoric and action will make investors very nervous. Until this is sorted out, the essential ramp-up of investment in the low carbon economy will flat-line.”
Scotland And Wales Join Forces Against The Motherland
Fast forward through numerous editorials, speeches, and cries for the UK Government to at least begin a dialogue with the renewable energy industry to phase out governmental-financial support, and we find ourselves reading a joint letter signed by Scotland’s Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, and the Welsh Natural Resources Minister, Carl Sargeant, warning that “the lack of discussion from the UK Government on support for renewable energy is likely to cause disruption to community energy projects.”
“Secondly, you have stated that you will be willing to consider how community and local energy can be supported, and requested further thoughts on how such projects should be considered. Community energy is a key priority for both our governments and we feel very strongly that those communities who have invested heavily, in time, money and commitment, in a cleaner energy future, are deserving of this consideration.”
“Local ownership gives communities more control over their own energy and will help us tackle challenges like grid constraints and fuel poverty – while at the same time sparking economic revival,” said Scotland’s Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing. “There are many communities who have invested significant amounts of money in renewables schemes and have now found the goal posts have been moved, putting crucial investment and jobs at risk.”
“Community energy is a key priority for both our governments and we feel very strongly that those communities who have invested heavily, in time, money and commitment, in a cleaner energy future, are deserving of this consideration,” added Carl Sargeant, the Natural Resources Minister for Wales.
“We both see that the future direction for energy is one of local generation and supply, based on renewable sources, and smart storage and local grid management, with significant local benefit. The current proposals will significantly damage the prospects for this future if the local ownership and benefits of projects are not considered within the support regime.”
Scottish Community Wind Continues Apace
The letter comes at the same time as a new community wind energy project has been given the green light to begin construction, after raising £1.43 million out of the necessary £1.8 million target. In an announcement made earlier this month, the Heartland Wind Community Wind project explained that they had since “agreed payment terms with our main suppliers so that we can get on with the build while raising the remaining £370,000.”
Heartland Wind will install two 250 kW wind turbines in Perthshire in October.
“Securing suitable payment terms with Perth’s RM Energy is the last part of the jigsaw,” said Jon Halle, speaking on behalf of the project developers. “Planning consent and a grid connection have been secured for some time, so the project was locked into the Feed in Tariff before recent DECC statements. This means that we can go ahead with the installation in October as planned and should be generating before Christmas.”
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