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£15m fund for rural energy projects opens to applications

Rural communities across England that aspire to generate their own clean green power are being offered a helping hand.

Rural communities across England that aspire to generate their own clean green power are being offered a helping hand today with the launch of a £15 million Government fund.

The Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF), which opens to applications today, is specifically targeted at helping rural communities access the money needed to carry out feasibility studies into renewable energy projects, and fund the costs associated with applying for planning permission.

It is intended that projects will then be able to attract private finance to pay for renewable energy kit and get projects up and running. Funding can be used to support rural projects across the renewable and low carbon energy spectrum including wind, solar, biomass, heat pumps, anaerobic digestion, gas Combined Heat and Power and hydro.

Energy and climate change minister Greg Barker said: “This investment will help kick start hundreds of clean green energy projects in rural areas across England. This new fund will give aspiring communities access to the cash they need to make this happen.

“Not only can local generation bring people together, boost local economies and drive forward green growth, it can help save money on energy bills too.

“We have already seen more than two hundred great community energy projects begin to blossom thanks to our Local Energy Assessment Fund, and I would encourage as many rural communities as possible to grasp this new opportunity with both hands.”

The RCEF offers funding in two stages. There is a grant of up to £20,000 on offer for feasibility studies into renewable energy projects in local areas. Once these studies have been successfully completed, communities can then apply for a loan worth up to around £130,000 to help with project costs, such as seeking planning permission and relevant environmental permits.

The loan is repayable to Government once projects have received the necessary private sector funding required to get them up and running. Community groups will need to pay back a set amount on top of the loan borrowed which will be rolled back into the fund to help support even more community energy projects across rural England.

This investment builds on the success of the Local Energy Assessment Fund (LEAF) launched in December 2011, which helped drive forward 236 community energy generation and management projects across England. Projects already up and running include Woolhope Woodheat Cooperative’s biomass energy scheme that provides community heating using locally sourced woodchip, and Reepham Green Team, which helped install external cladding and internal solid wall insulation in community buildings.

Interested communities, including those who got money under LEAF, can apply for the RCEF via the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the scheme administrators. Applications will be reviewed on a monthly basis by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with advice from WRAP, but there is no set deadline for submission of bids.

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