York Community Energy

Renewables are down, but not out!

You can’t have missed the news story over the winter that the Government has been rolling back its support for renewable energy. Just when we were on the verge of a breakthrough, the Government seemed to have decided to apply the brakes.

There’s no mistaking that this has left the sector badly bruised, and the renewables industry has suffered massively. We’ve recently been contacting solar installers for quotes for our first community solar project. Of the first three companies we contacted, two had gone into administration – including probably the best known installer in York, Solarwall.

Solarwall was not a fly-by-night cowboy outfit formed to cash in on Government subsidies, this was a family owned local firm with almost 40 years of experience. We also contacted One Planet Solar in Northumberland and Waldon Energy in Surrey, both of which seem to have packed up too. We tried six companies to get three quotes.

Installations rates everywhere have tumbled massively. The Department for Energy and Climate Change’s own study at the time suggested that might lose up to 18,700 of the solar industry‚Äôs 32,000 jobs. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Government policy on renewables at the moment is a bull in a china shop.

Community renewables have suffered too – after a mad rush for the FiT deadlines we’ve seen projects shelved, including the high-profile REPOWERBalcombe project for a massive 4.8MW community-owned solar farm.

We have to do things differently. New models are appearing, based on fundraising and direct sale of electricity to end users, rather than selling at grid rates. That’s the model being pursued by REPOWERBalcombe’s latest project, and indeed our own “Solar City Farm” project. Elsewhere, schemes are being supported by local authorities – like the 4.8MW Swindon Common Farm community solar project.

Ultimately, if we are to beat climate change, we will need to all pull in the same direction. In the meantime, community renewable energy may be making slower progress but we’re damned if we’ll be stopped.