Experts offer help giving power to the people
Date of Article
Jul 04 2013

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11 July 2013, A series of grants and loans to pay for renewable energy feasibility studies and planning applications in rural areas in England has been announced by the Government.

A grant of up to £20,000 is available under the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) to local community groups to undertake feasibility studies and a loan of up to £130,000 to support planning applications.

New research by Forum for the Future, a not for profit organisation, that is based on a survey of 700 farms shows an increased appetite in the farming sector for renewable energy opportunities.

Headline research figures identified that 40 per cent of respondents were deploying renewables, with 61 per cent of those not yet involved in on-farm renewable energy generation looking to invest in it in the coming five years. Just under one third (30 per cent) using renewable technologies utilised wind installations and 76 per cent felt that potential in the renewable sector had yet to be met.

National property consultancy Carter Jonas has a team of energy specialists that has been working in tandem with its rural property experts for the last decade and which is ready to help discover the viability of schemes for any groups or organisations in rural areas. People who feel empowered by the opportunity do not need to be part of an existing group thinking of renewable energy opportunities because new groups can be set up specifically to develop renewable projects within their community.

Qualifying groups need to be a community interest company (CIC); industrial provident society (IPS) such as co-operatives; a parish council; registered social landlord; charity; development trust; or a faith group

The key criteria are that the group must represent a rural community of fewer than 10,000 residents; have the support of the wider community; and ensure that any proposed income and benefits generated will flow to the community

"There is a real synergy between the energy and agricultural sectors and while many people have an ambition to use renewable energy they don't know how to go about determining its viability for them or their wider community," explains Simon Pallett, a rural partner with Carter Jonas in Newbury.

"Rural communities often have many different ways to exploit renewable energy options, including anaerobic digesters, wind power, solar PV, and biomass – the specialist energy team here can help reveal which is best for each circumstance.

"The RCEF will help communities maintain ownership of renewable energy projects themselves, with 100% of the benefits being returned directly into the local area, rather than as profits to commercial developers."