Despite much interest from investors, green electricity generation capacity has not changed significantly in the region according to a survey by Regen SW, the region’s renewable energy agency.

In the last year only three renewable energy schemes have been approved while sever were turned down by council planning committees, Regen SW said. The region now has around 137MW renewable energy capacity, up by 14.4MW from last year, with the vast majority of the rise coming from increased generator capacity at landfill gas sites. No county in the South West region is close to meeting the 2010 target for renewable energy generation, the agency said.

Chief executive of Regen SW, Matthew Spencer, said that councils’ attitude on wind farms will be a test of their commitment to renewables.

“In the last year we’ve seen a sea change in public attitudes to climate change but this is still not being reflected in planning decisions on renewable energy by local councils. Some local politicians are now walking the talk on renewable energy, but they are still in a minority.

“Fortunately we are seeing a growth in interest in the south west from renewable energy developers and there is still the opportunity to make up lost ground. Whilst we’d encourage local councils to support a range of renewable technologies it is their attitude to wind farms in the next two years which will be a crucial test of their commitment. It remains the cheapest and most powerful renewable technology available to us in the short-term.”

The South West is doing better on renewable heat, with capacity up by 7.42MW to 27.85MW over the last year, mainly due to the installation of wood fuel boilers. Ground source heat pumps are also becoming increasingly popular, with 200 new units installed by the Carrick Housing Association in Cornwall.

Wind power capacity is also developing, but much more slowly. On-going projects include a 6MW wind farm under construction in Avonmouth, an 18MW wind farm in Den Brook, Devon recently approved on appeal, and more one or two-turbine projects.

The region continues to source only 2% of its total electricity from renewable sources at present, according to the survey.

More information can be found on the Regen SW” website.

Goska Romanowicz

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