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July 1, 2015

Threat to community renewables

You’d think that any country bestowed with the level of renewable energy resource that we have, and faced with an increasingly uncertain global energy market, would ensure it was taking full advantage of its natural assets. The recent announcement by the UK Energy Minister that she was ending subsidies for onshore wind is seen by insiders as a serious misjudgement that will cause untold damage to what is still a very fragile industry. It’s unlikely she’s has even considered the impact on the even more fragile community energy sector.

Community Energy Scotland

Statement from Community Energy Scotland   

We join with Scottish Renewables and the Scottish Government in condemning this move, which places thousands of jobs in Scotland at risk. The arguments made by the UK Govt against wind are that it is too expensive, yet it’s far cheaper than the offshore wind and nuclear CfD strike prices which continue to be backed.

We are deeply concerned about the impact that the ROC cut will have on community wind projects. Westminster has not recognised that there are community projects of this scale out there, despite the strong examples we have in projects like the 9MW Point and Sandwick scheme, shortly to be commissioned. Without ROC support projects of this size would not be viable, and the competitive auction process of CfDs is not an economically viable prospect for wind projects around 5-15MW. If the UK Government does not reverse this decision, it is essential that there are additional grace periods put in place for community groups, regardless of whether they have yet secured grid, planning consent or option agreements.

CES is also particularly concerned about the hints that FiTs will be scrapped for onshore wind later this year. We urge the UK Govt to end this uncertainty by publishing their proposals for the future of ROCs, FiTs and CfDs within the next week, as this speculation and delay is crippling investment decisions.

If wind FiTs are to be scrapped, the proposed exemption for community projects is essential. CES was instrumental in persuading DECC to amend their narrow definition of a community group to ensure that it included charities and their wholly-owned trading subsidiaries; if we hadn’t secured this then the majority of new community wind projects being developed in Scotland might have found themselves ineligible. We believe that this definition should be extended to include partnership projects between community groups and charities that would separately be eligible, such as at Hoprigshiels.

In order to ensure that community groups aren’t restricted in their aspirations, and to ensure a continuation of support to larger schemes under development such as the 6.9MW Fyne Futures project, the FiT scheme should be extended from the current 5MW up to 15MW. A move to increase the FiT scheme from 5-10MW was proposed then rejected by the last Government on the grounds of ‘unjustified cost’, but the early closure of the ROC scheme is a significant moving of the goalposts. A further FiT band from 5-15MW, set at the current equivalent ROC rate, would help secure planned and future developments by communities, charities and housing associations in Scotland.