Community energy projects likely to stall warn ministers

The Scottish and Welsh Governments have warned plans by Whitehall to cut renewable energy subsidies could disrupt community energy projects.

A joint letter from the two devolved governments has called for urgent clarity about how the early end of the Renewables Obligation will impact community-owned energy projects in their own countries.

The letter also claims community projects are likely to be hit harder by the impact of the UK Government’s decision and that local supply chains are likely to suffer.

“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,” said Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing.

"On the Isle of Lewis we have the largest community-owned wind farm in the UK at 9MW. This will generate around £1 million each year for the local community who will decide how to spend that money. However, potentially the future of other projects like this could be under threat as a result of the recent announcements by the UK Government, and it will be tragic if these opportunities are lost to future communities.

The Welsh Natural Resources Minister, Carl Sargeant, added: “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.

“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.

“Schemes like the Abergwyngregyn hydro scheme bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits to communities and the DECC proposals will make it much harder for communities to benefit from local renewable energy opportunities in the future,” he added.

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, specializing in local government, transport and energy issues