County Council in subsidy plea

Gloucestershire County Council has called on the Government to protect public sector and community-led solar schemes from subsidy cuts.

Council Leader, Cllr Mark Hawthorne, is set to write to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, requesting that any intended changes to the Feed-In-Tariff do not put at risk public sector/community-led schemes.

This follows a council meeting yesterday (23 October) when a motion put forward by the Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Jeremy Hilton, was given cross-party support.

The motion states that the Government’s proposals for a fundamental review of the Renewables Obligation and Feed-In-Tariff Scheme (FITs) “could put at jeopardy this council’s and other local authorities solar PV projects”.

In July, Gloucestershire County Council’s Cabinet agreed that ground-mounted PV panels be installed on many building in the council’s estate, but if the cuts to the Feed-In-Tariff go ahead, it would affect the income generated and the council’s future budget.

“I understand the Government’s reasons for making changes to the Feed-In-Tariff system,” said Conservative Cabinet Member for Planning, Cllr Will Windsor Clive.

“However, I hope that the Secretary of State can have a look at the affect on local council and community-led renewable energy schemes and see if she can find a way to offer them continuing support.”

Speaking after the motion was passed, Cllr Hilton added: “The Council was going to build five solar farms across Gloucestershire, which would have generated 15MW of power and reduced the council’s utility bills and carbon footprint and help to support the revenue budget.

“It’s disappointing that the Feed-In-Tariffs rates are not being maintained at the same price that was available at the time the project started.

“Hopefully in future the costs of building these solar farms will be reduced so that we can reinstate the project.”

Cllr Lesley Williams, Leader of the Labour Group, said: “We need to find as many ways as we can to generate energy. I am disappointed that subsidies have been removed by Central Government and we are already seeing job losses as a result.”

And UKIP Group Leader Cllr Alan Preest, commented: “We have fought long and hard on renewables, as the Feed-In-Tariffs lead to mass fuel poverty.

“I think some commercial developers are led by greed, whereas I welcome the council using its land in this way for social benefit.”

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