Today has seen the launch of the coalition government's Microgeneration Strategy (covering installations generating less than 50kW for electricity and less than 300kW for heat). The scale of most community and co-operative renewable energy groups goes beyond the scope of this strategy, though the strategy does reference community scale in the following ways:
- Recognition that there needs to be further work to unpick challenges for community energy, including a commitment to holding a roundtable at the 'earliest opportunity'.
- Recognition that the planning process is a major barrier for community scale energy. The strategy commits Decc to running additional free 'Plan LoCaL' dissemination events in England.
- Recognition that finance (especially grants) is becoming increasingly challenging, including commitments to identify funding channels and working with the 'investment community'.
- The strategy also says: "The development of a stream of finance targeted at the feasibility stages will enable the pipeline of viable community energy projects to develop." It is not clear whether Decc intends to take any action on this.
- Decc also commits to further developing the Community Energy Online information portal.
Of interest for hydro co-operatives will be that the strategy includes actions to improve the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) process, making it work more effectively for SMEs while continuing to protect consumers – for example by allowing greater flexibility in the treatment of micro hydro installations. This will be taken forward through the FITs comprehensive review launched later this summer.
A colleague has reported that there was an interesting piece on Countryfile last weekend (BBC1 8pm) about PV and feed in tariffs. This included a section on Cornwall and interview with Greg Clark who said the full FiT review would allow them to be more ‘nuanced’ in relation to community owned solar photovoltaics (pv). So, a glimmer of hope that the recently slashed tariff levels for solar pv (>250kW cut from 30.7p/kWh to 8.5p/kWh) could be changed.
In addition to the Microgeneration Strategy, today Ofgem has announced that it intends to press ahead with a radical overhaul of the gas and electricity market. The press release includes this statement: "We will also pursue breaking up the stranglehold of the Big Six on the electricity market to encourage more firms, like new arrival the Co-op, to enter the energy market and increase the competitive pressure on the Big Six." 'The Co-op' is Midcounties Co-operative's new energy venture, Co-operative Energy.