New rules for micro-renewables funding

Grants for micro-renewables like rooftop wind turbines and solar panels have taken a nose-dive, with the maximum amount down from £15,000 to £2,500, in one of the changes under the newly re-launched micro-generation funding scheme.

Householders will also be required to obtain planning permission before applying and there will no longer be a monthly cap on grants.

The changes follow an increase in total cash available under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme to almost £19m, with £6.8m already allocated since the programme’s launch in April and the remaining £11.9m available from May 29th.

Only half of the £6.8 in grants awarded so far has been paid out, however, due to planning delays, supply chain issues and other problems. The new rules require planning permission prior to application to cut down delays.

Launching the revised scheme, trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling said: “Micro-wind turbines and solar panels are fast becoming the credible response of householders to cutting their carbon emissions as well as their utility bills.

He said that the microgeneration industry has “tremendous potential in the low carbon economy” and is helped by easy access to micro-renewables on the high street.

“This grant scheme is designed to maximise carbon savings, demonstrate potential and help the sector become more commercially competitive in the long term,” he said.

The Rewewable Energy Association said that by slashing the maximum grant amount the Government will undermine the advance of micro-renewables, however.

“While it is good news that the Programme will be back up and running, this scale-back makes a nonsense of the extra funds from the Chancellor and of the Government’s ambition to bring on-site power to the people.

“We hope that renewable heating from biomass, solar thermal and heat pumps can now get back on track, but this decision will place renewable electricity beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest households,” said Philip Wolfe, chief executive of the REA.

“This will particularly hit PV and wind, which have been two of the most popular elements of the Programme. Demand has collapsed following the DTI’s decision to suspend the Programme in March, and with these unnecessary funding cuts it is unlikely to recover.

Since it launched in April 2006 the Low Carbon Buildings Programme has funded 2175 installations including 242 mini-turbines, 313 Solar PV projects and 1467 solar thermal heating systems.

“At such short notice, job losses and company failures will inevitably follow; losing vital experience at precisely the time we need strong growth in the expertise base,” he said.

“Our members can’t comprehend why the DTI responds to a 50% funding increase by drastically reducing grant levels,” he said, and called for “strong and stable incentives” for the renewables industry.

Goska Romanowicz

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