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Calls for clarity and funds to boost community energy drive

A recent Green Alliance study into community energy has claimed that communities are being demoralised and obstructed by a lack of clear policy and restricted access to finance, despite enthusiasm and support.

Repeated rule changes meant one group in Sheffield had to abandon plans for a hydro scheme after four years of development. 

The government is now devising a community energy strategy and Green Alliance has published its Recommendations for action in community voices: realising the potential of community energy, summarising the findings of the workshops held with MPs in Edinburgh, Sheffield and Wells, Somerset.

Among its recommendations for the strategy, the report calls on the government to:

  • Strengthen national policy, by setting a clear, ambitious vision for community energy in the UK, considering communities explicitly in the design of energy policies and schemes and reviewing how the Renewable Heat Incentive could better support community initiatives.
  • Improve finance options, by providing start-up funding to help groups get projects off the ground, exploring the potential for the Green Investment Bank to provide accessible finance and working with banks on financing community projects. It should also be easier for community projects to access income, such as feed-in tariff payments, alongside other funding streams.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield said: “There is a real interest in community energy in my constituency, but complex and risky development processes are making it harder than it should be.

“Sheffield Renewables worked tirelessly for four years to set up a hydro scheme, but had to scrap the idea when recent changes to Environment Agency requirements made it too expensive.

“This shouldn’t be happening – we should be actively encouraging these projects and making it easy for a community group to realise their ideas.”

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