Schools, businesses and communities should be given financial support to install medium-sized renewable energy schemes such as wind turbines and solar panels, MPs have urged.
In a report released on Tuesday, the energy committee found that generous subsidies exist for the smallest green energy schemes, as well as for the projects on the largest scale. But projects of 10-50 megawatts, equivalent to a small onshore wind farm, fall through a funding gap and do not get any similar state subsidy.
The MPs found that the biggest wind farms and solar farms would still provide the largest amount of new renewable energy in the UK. But they concluded that medium-sized schemes could provide a significant proportion of energy.
In the report, the committee urged the government to introduce support and bring a package of measures addressing finance, planning, grid access and advice.
The Government-backed Green Investment Bank (GIB) could provide seed funding and project development cash for feasibility studies, permits for the grid and other elements to reduce the risk in getting schemes off the ground, the MPs suggested.
Local energy projects struggle in the face of problems and costs obtaining planning permission, connection to the grid, public opposition and securing funding for the scheme.
“Encouraging schools, businesses and local authorities to generate some of their electricity locally can bring big benefits to communities and the UK as a whole,” said Alan Whitehead, an MP on the committee. “Businesses can reduce their energy overheads, locals can potentially benefit from cheaper electricity or heat, and councils can use projects to tackle fuel poverty, cut costs and reduce carbon emissions.”
Ed Davey, energy secretary, has launched a paper proposing community benefits for places which accept wind farms, ranging from new sports halls or free home improvements to lower energy bills.
At present households which install small-scale renewable systems get a guaranteed price for their energy through “feed-in tariffs”. Meanwhile the largest projects, for example offshore wind farms, are set to be supported through “contracts for difference” giving them a set return.